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E-M:/ ALERT! Timber sale in Jordan River threatens Goshawk

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Lots of people now know that the Jordan River Valley is threatened by oil and
gas development, and the DNR has been rightly praised for standing up to
efforts to drill there, claiming that the area is very sensitive and should
not be drilled.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that DNR timber sales occur throughout
this sensitive area on an ongoing basis.  The on the ground managers do the
best they can, working with the tools they are given.  But, as the
Honker Hardwoods sale pending right now shows, those tools still do not
include adequate guidance on protecting rare or threatened species, such as
the Northern Goshawk and Red shouldered hawk. The clear mandate unfortunately
still comes through -- cut first, ask questions later.  While this is just one
sale, it is symptomatic of serious problems that still persist in the
management of Michigan's 3.9 million acres of State Forest lands.

In the last week and one half since the sale notice for the Honker
Hardwoods sale came out, Sierra Club has been asking DNR officials in the
field and in Lansing to at least delay the Honker Hardwoods Timber Sale to
allow a complete evaluation and possible reconfiguration of the sale based on
the discovery by the crew marking the timber for the sale of an active
Northern Goshawk nest in the sale area.  Right now, the sale protects only 66'
from the tree that contains an active nest, restricts the sale to between July
1 and March 1 and leaves a slightly higher basal area behind in the selection
cut than in other cuts.  

The problem is, these are not up to the standards that are recommended by
scientists, including those given out as part of a training of DNR staff in
mid June by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.  Bids on the timber sale
are to be opened on July 16th, after which the sale contract will be signed

TUESDAY JULY 15TH!  Despite agreement by key scientists involved that the
Honker Hardwoods sale is set up in a way that is not protective enough of the
bird and its habitat, there is an astounding reluctance on the part of the
higher ups in DNR to simply put the brakes on this sale, even for just a long
enough time to see whether or not the sale configuration should be changed.
Stopping a sale at this point is not unheard of, and would demand nothing more
than a call by Wildlife Division or Forest Management Division to stop the



ABOUT NORTHERN GOSHAWK:  Northern Goshawk have been recommended to be added
to the State Threatened Species list by a committee of scientists formed to
evaluate changes in the State Endangered Species Act list, a sign that the
well-being of this species is possibly declining in Michigan. The Endangered
Species list, whichis supposed to be revised every two years, is currently
undergoing updating, the first time in six years.

Currently a special concern species, there is some sentiment that since this
species is not already listed as threatened then there is no need to do
anything to protect its nests.  This assumption is flawed in two ways: 1) Red
shouldered hawk, a state listed threatened species, has very similar habitat
requirements, including using the same nests, so protecting the Goshawk is
virtually equivalent to protecting Red shouldered habitat; 2) the goal of
protection efforts should be to AVOID a decline in species viability, so
waiting to manage to protect habitat for a species until it is listed is a
foolish strategy, because inevitably it costs more and the options are fewer.

Unfortunately, the actual management strategies to protect even the Red
shouldered hawk are yet to be in place in Michigan, even though cutting is
going forward in areas that are either known or potential habitat.  An
analysis prepared by Sierra Club last fall, based on records acquired under
the Freedom of Information Act, showed that despite growing concern from
scientists starting in 1990, the DNR had yet to put in place even minimal
guidelines for protecting the habitat of Red-shouldered hawks, and by
extension Northern Goshawks. A committee of scientists has been appointed to
develop guidelines for management, but they will not meet until the fall.
Nonetheless, requests to simply put cuts in areas of potential habitat on hold
until guidelines have been established have been rejected.

REGARDING THE HONKER HARDWOODS SALE: All State Forest timber stands go through
a Compartment Review a year to two years before a sale is set up.  When the
Compartment Review was held for this area, the existence of the Northern
Goshawk nest was unknown.  Sierra Club representatives did recommend that
because of the quality of this area it should be considered as part of the
state old growth system, in particular because it could provide habitat for
these hawks and other interior forest species.  That request was turned down.

When the timber was being marked for the sale, the Northern Goshawk nest was
discovered.  The Area Forester and other on the ground staff put together a
set of measures to try to protect the hawk, based on having no clear guidance
on proper habitat needs for this bird.  The clear desire was to do what was
needed, but without expertise the sale design fell far short of what is
needed. Despite the attention to these species, there is no guidance to field
staff to seek guidance or input from the scientists in the Lansing office when
a special concern, threatened or endangered species is encountered AFTER a
Compartment Review is completed.  When the notices of acceptance of bids on
this sale were sent out at the very end of June was the FIRST time that those
involved in the Compartment Review were aware that a Northern Goshawk nest had
been found, but that meant that the clock was already ticking for the sale to
be signed and locked in stone as of July 16th.

Tim Flynn, a Sierra Club volunteer, began contacting DNR officials at the Area
level, at the District level, and in Lansing to request that the sale be
held up and that changes be made to assure that management be changed, based
on the guidance of scientists, to be protective of the nest and the birds.  At
every step so far, although every one agrees it is best to be protective,
that changing the sale might be a good idea, etc., it appears that no one will
simply step forward and say STOP THE CLOCK TICKING ON THE SALE until the
answers can be gotten on best management!! Now, with just days before the bids
are scheduled to be opened, the message is increasingly clear that timber
cutting is taking precedence over protection of a species that is clearly on
the decline in this state.

If you wish more details on this issue, copy of the sale bid packet, copies of
letters sent to the DNR on this topic, etc., please feel free to contact Tim
Flynn < tflynn@freeway.net > or Anne Woiwode < anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org >

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