Northern Spotted Owl, CDFW, and Timber Operations
The California Fish and Game Commission voted to list the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) as a threatened species and thus it is subject to the prohibitions on take found in the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) (Fish & G. Code, § 2080 et seq.). NSO has additionally been subject to federal prohibitions on take since it was added to the list of species covered by the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990. NSO’s status as a threatened species under CESA means that CDFW is responsible for ensuring NSO’s continued existence and preventing significant adverse impacts to the species. CDFW’s Timberland Conservation Program (TCP) reviews NSO information in Timber Harvesting Plans (THPs) and other timber operations. TCP’s involvement includes the following:
- CDFW staff reviews selected THPs to evaluate their compliance with the Forest Practice Rules (FPR) (including Section 898.2) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) protocol and guidelines (PDF). CDFW
reviews timber harvest activities within its role and authority as an FPR Review
Team Member (FPR
Section 1037.5), and evaluates THPs specifically with respect to compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and CESA.
- Deviations from the USFWS protocol and
guidelines should be reviewed by USFWS. The California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is the lead agency for approval and issuance of THPs
and Non-industrial Timber Management Plans (NTMPs) and has the final authority
to approve or deny THPs with proposed deviations.
- Using the best science available, CDFW recommends
submission of completed NSO survey and habitat information with each THP and
NTMP. This allows for the most accurate and timely assessment of potential
impacts to NSO. Additionally, foresters and/or landowners should annually
submit spotted owl survey data to the
CDFW Spotted Owl Observations Database to assist with and expedite NSO impact assessment.
- In cases where CDFW determines plans include
incomplete or inaccurate information, CDFW informs CAL FIRE and plan submitters
that insufficient information has been provided for CDFW to render an opinion
as to whether the plan conforms with the Forest Practice Rules, the USFWS
protocols and guidelines, CESA, and/or CEQA. In those cases, CDFW identifies what additional information is needed to
complete the NSO information package.
- CDFW’s review of THPs, NTMPs, and amendments is
not subject to the provisions of Habitat Retention Agreements (HRA) between the
landowner and USFWS unless the HRA provisions have been addressed in an active
Technical Assistance letter from USFWS and in compliance with FPR
Section 919.9(e). In addition, HRAs are not equivalent to Safe Harbor Agreements
(SHAs) and cannot be easily transferred to a SHA.
- CDFW anticipates providing comments to
landowners and USFWS engaged in developing federal Safe Harbor Agreements
(SHAs) to help ensure the federal SHAs’ provisions meet
Fish and Game Code Section 2089.6 State SHA issuance criteria and can qualify
for consistency determinations per
Fish and Game Code Section 2089.22.
- CDFW engages with landowners and USFWS regarding federal take authorization of NSO to help ensure the federal provisions meet
Fish and Game Code Section 2081 and can qualify for consistency determinations pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 2080.1.
- As staff availability allows, CDFW offers its services to answer technical and regulatory questions and complete NSO pre-survey consultations for THPs, NTMPs, emergencies, and exemptions.
Report on NSO Stakeholder Meetings
In the spring of 2017, CDFW met with stakeholders to discuss NSO conservation and management on private timberlands. CDFW staff collated these ideas and recommendations in the
Report on Northern Spotted Owl Stakeholder Meetings (PDF). This report summarizes the wide range of ideas and opinions from stakeholders involved in NSO-related issues on non-federal timberlands within the California range of NSO. This information is intended to assist the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection when it considers regulatory reform of the FPR related to NSO. Additionally, CDFW intends to use this report as a basis for proposing monitoring ideas to the
Effectiveness Monitoring Committee and to guide management decisions internally.
2016 Water Drafting Workshop
CDFW staff from the Timberland Conservation Program worked with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) staff to put on a series of workshops related to water drafting during timber operations.
Spatial Timberland Information
CDFW's Biogeographic Data Branch operates the Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS). This system provides a spatial representation of biological data that can be useful during review of Timber Harvesting Plans. While BIOS encompasses data from throughout California, some datasets pertain more specifically to timberland resources. These data are compiled in Timberland Viewers available under the Timberland Resources section of the BIOS webpage. Users without a California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) subscription can access several publicly available layers in the Timberland Viewers such as:
- Species habitats
- Fire perimeters
- Timber plan boundaries
In addition, users with a CNDDB subscription can access numerous layers including:
- Spotted Owl Observations Database
- Barred Owl Observations Database
Once a BIOS Viewer has been opened, users can also use the search bar at the top of the viewer to search for additional layers of interest, such as marbled murrelet and steelhead layers.
Additionally, BIOS users can access lists of sensitive species tracked by the CNDDB. Under the Advanced Tools button, select CNDDB QuickView and choose the area (quad, nine quads, or county) where you would like to see a species list. Please note that spotted owl information is not included in the QuickView tool. Users should refer to the Spotted Owl Observations Database.
Sensitive and Special Status Species
California's timberlands are home to many rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive species. Natural history information about California wildlife is available through the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships (CWHR) system.
The Biogeographic Data Branch maintains a compilation of plant, fish, and wildlife currently listed as threatened or endangered:
Other sensitive species include:
The California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) is an important source of positive detection data for California's special status species. However, lack of occurrences in CNDDB does not mean that species are absent from that area. This also applies to the Spotted Owl Observations Database. Scientifically-vetted species-specific surveys should be performed for the best chance of verifying presence or absence of special status species.