The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) reviews land-use projects, including forest harvesting, when those projects are proposed within Priority or Estimated Habitat for compliance with the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) and Wetlands Protection Act (WPA), respectively. The NHESP reviews projects within Priority and/or Estimated Habitat in order to determine if the project will result in harm to state-listed species or their habitats, termed a "take" under the MESA. Forestry projects are exempt from the standard project filing requirements pertinent to development projects, provided they are conducted in accordance with an approved Forest Cutting Plan as required under the Forest Cutting Practices Act (M.G.L. c. 132 sec. 40-46) and its implementing regulations (304 CMR 11.00*). An outline of the filing and review process for forestry projects proposed within Priority Habitat can be found below.
Procedures for Review of Forest Cutting Plans
- Forest Cutting Plans are submitted to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for review and approval.
- If the forestry project is proposed within Priority Habitat, DCR staff will forward the Forest Cutting Plan to the NHESP for review. Click here for more information on Priority and Estimated Habitats , including how to determine if your project is located within these mapped areas.
- NHESP review staff review the plan and determine whether or not the proposed activities will result in a "take" of state-listed species (i.e. will cause direct harm to the state-listed species or detrimentally alter the habitat of the state-listed species).
- If NHESP determines no impacts to state-listed species or their habitats will result, that determination is provided to DCR. If NHESP determines that a "take" may result from the proposed forestry activity, NHESP provides a list of recommended modifications to the plan to avoid the harm to state-listed species or their habitats.
- DCR modifies the plan to incorporate the NHESP recommendations prior to final approval.
Timeline for NHESP Review of Forest Cutting Plans
- The timeline for review begins the first business day after NHESP receives a complete Forest Cutting Plan (including legible maps and any additional information needed to complete the review).
- If the project site is only in Priority Habitat and not Estimated Habitat, NHESP has 10 business days to issue a determination to DCR. If the project site is within Estimated Habitat, the NHESP has 15 business days to issue a determination.
Streamlining the NHESP Review Process
- In order to aid landowners submitting Forest Cutting Plans which may impact rare species and their habitats, NHESP has developed specific management guidelines for the state-listed species which have the most frequent conflicts with forestry activities.
- These management guidelines, forestry Conservation Management Practices (CMPs), provide the landowner with guidance for developing and executing a Forest Cutting Plan that will reduce or eliminate the conflict with state-listed species.
- CMPs are specific, science-based guidelines for conservation of rare species during forest harvesting. They are somewhat analogous to Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) used to protect water resources, but the CMPs are to protect the local populations of state-listed species for the long-term.
- Additionally, NHESP is working with DCR to help landowners gather information on state-listed species at a project site before the Forest Cutting Plan is developed when the project site is within Priority or Estimated Habitat. In this way, CMPs or other guidance can be incorporated into the plan before it is submitted.
For additional information on CMPs, NHESP review of forestry projects, or how to get rare species information about your project site, please contact Brent Powers at (508) 389-6354 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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