The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has enrolled 49,712 acres of land owned by Rice-Land Lumber Co. in the Louisiana Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (RCW) Safe Harbor Program.
The Safe Harbor Management Agreement with Rice-Land Lumber, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rice University, established a baseline number of one RCW family group on the company's lands. Rice agreed to employ Larson & McGowin Inc. to manage the RCW on its land to contribute to the regional stability of the bird's populations in southwest Louisiana.
"We welcome all private landowners who support the department's wildlife species preservation efforts and Rice-Land is to be commended for their commitment," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham.
Rice University has owned the lands enrolled, which includes acreage within Allen, Beauregard, Evangeline and Rapides parishes, for more than a century; timber harvest in the early 1900s funded development and construction of the university. This timberland has been managed by Larson & McGowin, Inc., for over a decade. "We are pleased to have the Safe Harbor Agreement in place which allows for continued forest management and promotes the recovery of the endangered RCW simultaneously," said Ron Long, interim vice president for investments and treasurer at Rice University.
The RCW is a federally and state-listed endangered species that inhabits open pine forests greater than 60 years old. Rice-Land Lumber has agreed to intensively manage 219 acres in Beauregard Parish for nesting and foraging habitat and to perform prescribed burning.
"The RCW Safe Harbor Program represents LDWF's commitment to work with private landowners who want to proactively manage for endangered species on their property," said Eric Baka, RCW Safe Harbor coordinator. "The Safe Harbor Program helps remove the perceived disincentives associated with endangered species management and rewards landowners for their actions."
LDWF received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Section 10 permit, authorizing it to administer the RCW Safe Harbor Program in January 2005. Multiple partners helped shaped the final document, including nongovernmental organizations, private landowners, environmental consultants and state and federal agencies. The RCW Safe Harbor Program is designed to encourage landowners to actively and voluntarily manage pine timberlands for the benefit of the RCW while reducing the fear of having an endangered species on their property. Landowners agree to employ one or more of five voluntary habitat management strategies that have a net conservation benefit for the RCW. These strategies include forest management, hardwood midstory management, prescribed burning, RCW cavity management and RCW population management.
The Safe Harbor program allows landowners greater flexibility to manage their forest resources while benefiting the RCW through baseline shifts. Essentially the landowner increases its RCW population via the installation of recruitment clusters and reassigns baseline responsibilities with LDWF approval. This provision of the Safe Harbor Program allows for greater stability for RCW populations by aggregating previously demographically isolated groups.
With the addition of the Rice lands, LDWF has 15 landowners enrolled in the RCW Safe Harbor Program, totaling 481,332 acres, with 101 baseline RCW groups and 2 above-baseline RCW groups. LDWF is currently working with numerous other landowners interested in enrolling in the Louisiana RCW Safe Harbor Program.
Landowners interested in the Louisiana RCW Safe Harbor Program or information regarding RCW management can contact Eric Baka, RCW Safe Harbor coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 318-487-5890.
For more information, contact Eric Baka at 318-487-5890 or email@example.com .