EPIC and Allies Take Aim at SPI HCP

A Draft Habitat Conservation Plan (DHCP) for California timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has been released with a companion Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for public comment with a comment deadline of July 1.

The DHCP proposed by SPI looks very much like the HCP for Northern Spotted Owl put forth by Fruit Growers Supply Company that was eventually nullified upon legal challenge in federal court.

Like Fruit Growers, SPI timberlands are located in the checkerboard matrix lands where alternate square ownership parcels are owned by SPI, mixed with other ownerships, most notably, the United States Forest Service. Like the Fruit Growers HCP, SPI appears to be creating habitat retention and support areas for Northern Spotted Owl that incorporate adjacent Forest Service lands and rely upon assumptions of adjacent Forest Service lands management and conservation when devising SPI protected areas and calculating SPI’s proposed Incidental Take and mitigation obligations to satisfy criteria for allowance of Incidental Take contained in the Endangered Species Act.

The SPI DHCP would cover SPI for Incidental Take of both NSO and CSO over nearly two-million acres of timberland in California most of which is intermixed with public lands. SPI is offering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the carrot of a long-term collection, removal, and study program for barred owls (Strix varina) a non-native direct competitor for NSO and likely also CSO, whose range continues to expand southward and into California forests occupied historically by both species of spotted owl.