Current versions of the Massachusetts Forestry Conservation Management Practices (CMPs):

Birds

Common Loon (Gavia immer), SC, on nest.  Photo by Bill Byrne.
Common Loon (Gavia immer), SC, on nest. Photo by Bill Byrne.

Common Loon pdf format of Common Loon CMPs

Reptiles
Blanding's Turtle (Draft) pdf format of Blanding's Turtle CMPs
Eastern Box Turtle pdf format of Eastern Box Turtle CMPs
Spotted Turtle pdf format of Spotted Turtle CMPs
Wood Turtle pdf format of Wood Turtle CMPs

Amphibians
Four-toed Salamander (Draft) pdf format of Four-toed Salamander CMPs
MESA-listed mole salamanders* pdf format of MESA-listed mole salamanders CMPs

* Includes Blue-spotted Salamander, Jefferson Salamander,and Marbled Salamander.

In the spirit of the essential practice of adaptive management, the Massachusetts Forestry CMPs may be revised periodically as a result of new scientific findings and experience in the practical application of the CMPs; these revisions shall aim to improve the effectiveness, accuracy, and content of the CMPs. Summaries of the revisions shall be included here as new drafts or versions of the CMPs are posted in the future.

Please see below for answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NHESP Forestry Conservation Management Practices for Rare Species

What are Forestry Conservation Management Practices?

Forestry Conservation Management Practices (CMPs) are specific, science-based guidelines for conservation of rare species during forest harvesting. CMPs are somewhat analogous to Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs), except whereas BMPs focus mainly on protection of water resources, CMPs specialize in protection of rare wildlife. The primary objective of CMPs is to guide harvesting activities such that rare species listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) are not impacted in a way that jeopardizes long-term viability of local populations. CMPs first identify and describe potential impacts of forest harvesting to state-listed species, whether impacts may be direct (e.g., physical injury or death of individual animals) or indirect (e.g., alteration of habitat in a way that reduces overall reproductive success of a local population). Then, CMPs provide specific guidelines to avoid or minimize impacts that would be considered negative or potentially detrimental to a local population; the guidelines are based on scientific knowledge of the habitat requirements, reproductive strategy, dispersal ability, survivorship, and other ecological factors that influence population dynamics of the species. CMPs are based on the principle that protection and enhancement of the long-term viability of local populations is prerequisite to statewide recovery of imperiled wildlife.

Simultaneous with the objective of protecting local populations of state-listed species, CMPs aim to maintain adequate opportunity for sustainable management of timber products in Massachusetts. To this end, CMPs tend to focus forest harvesting restrictions on the critical areas within known habitat of state-listed species, thereby allowing timber management to proceed with fewer restrictions over as large an area as possible. This strategy is based, in part, on recognition that forest harvesting typically results in temporary habitat change or sometimes even habitat improvement rather than permanent habitat loss. Thus, the CMP strategy is designed to help maximize the protection of state-listed species and the ability of Massachusetts landowners to manage their forests for timber and other wood products.

Why are CMPs Needed?

Management of forestland in Massachusetts involves multiple stakeholders with multiple objectives, so communication among stakeholders and development of management standards are essential to guiding compatible and sustainable uses of the land. State-owned forestland in Massachusetts received Forest Stewardship Council certification in May 2004, and this certification requires that there be coordination of forest management among the three state forest management agencies (Division of Water Supply Protection [DWSP], Bureau of Forestry [BOF], and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife [DFW]). In addition, there is a need for state forestland managers to work closely with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to develop and implement a formal and consistent process for determining appropriate mitigation of potentially adverse impacts of forest harvesting to state-listed species on both state and privately-owned forestlands. In light of these goals, CMPs are needed to ensure adequate protection of state-listed species during forest-harvesting operations and to help streamline the process involved with review of Forest Cutting Plans.

Without CMPs, a landowner and/or forester must develop a Forest Cutting Plan without having prior knowledge of possible harvest restrictions required by the NHESP to mitigate potential impacts of forest harvesting to state-listed species. Under these circumstances, activities proposed in the Forest Cutting Plan must often be modified after the plan is reviewed by the NHESP, which tends to result in delay of the harvest, changes in the amount and distribution of timber to be harvested, or changes in the number, type, or location of stream and wetland crossings. However, CMPs shall make potential harvest restrictions available to the landowner and forester before a Forest Cutting Plan is developed. This gives the landowner and forester an opportunity to develop a plan that is more likely to be approved by the NHESP without need for modification, thereby saving the landowner time and money. With proper planning and attention to detail, use of CMPs shall maximize the efficiency of the cutting-plan filing and review process and enable landowners to better understand how forestry and conservation of rare wildlife can be integrated as compatible uses of Massachusetts forestland.

What are the Benefits of CMPs?

CMPs benefit both state-listed species and forest management by (1) being based on scientific knowledge of the ecological factors influencing population dynamics of state-listed species, thereby enabling focused protection of key habitats and other resources, (2) improving the predictability and consistency of review of Forest Cutting Plans by the NHESP, and (3) providing detailed guidance to landowners and foresters for developing Forest Cutting Plans that have high probability of being approved by the NHESP without modification. An additional benefit, which is a byproduct of the first listed above, is that time-of-year harvesting restrictions mandated by CMPs tend to apply to smaller areas than those to which restrictions applied in the past. In this sense, intensive conservation measures are concentrated, which should be more effective in achieving conservation objectives than a strategy by which lighter measures are applied over a broader area. Furthermore, this strategy affords the landowner greater liberty in managing a larger proportion of a given tract of forest.

What is the Process for Developing CMPs?

The NHESP is the primary partner responsible for development of CMPs. However, staff of the Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (NREC) Extension Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and foresters of the DWSP, BOF, and DFW collaborate with the NHESP in this effort. This group of scientists and land managers meets regularly to work together on every aspect of the CMP development process.

The first step in developing CMPs is to determine which state-listed species should be addressed. This decision is based largely upon the frequency with which forest harvests are planned in habitat of each state-listed species, whereupon species that most frequently coincide with harvests are considered top candidates for development of CMPs. A second factor is the degree to which protection of each state-listed species is expected to impact the logistics of forest harvesting, whereupon species that are likely to require highly protective measures are considered top candidates. A third factor, which often is related to the second, is the sensitivity of a state-listed species or its habitat to forest harvesting, whereupon species that are highly sensitive are considered top candidates. When multiple species have similar ecological requirements and conservation strategies, groups of species may be lumped into a single CMP document (e.g., Blue-spotted Salamander, Jefferson Salamander, and Marbled Salamander are lumped together in a "Mole Salamander" CMP document).

When there is agreement between the NHESP and its collaborators about which state-listed species to address in a CMP document, the NHESP conducts a thorough search of scientific literature pertaining to the ecology of the species of interest. The information is then consolidated into a species account that includes a physical description of the species and a discussion of its range, distribution, habitat requirements, seasonal movements, reproductive strategy, survivorship, and other concepts associated with its life history. Additionally, the account includes a discussion of known and potential threats to population viability, including those posed by forest harvesting.

The NHESP and its collaborators then develop the actual management practices that scientific evidence suggests is necessary for successful conservation of the species. These management practices are specific to forestry-related activities and, like Forestry BMPs, are split into two categories: required management practices and recommended management practices. Required management practices (denoted with "R" in the CMP document) are those which should be considered mandatory during most harvests, barring special circumstances. Recommended management practices (denoted with "G" in the CMP document) are optional guidelines that are expected to provide additional benefits to the species of interest.

Once the species account and management guidelines are developed, a full draft of the CMP document is made available to the public for review and comment. Various stakeholder groups have been informed about this on-going process, including the Massachusetts Wood Producers Association, the Massachusetts Association of Professional Foresters, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, the Massachusetts Forester Licensing Board, and the Massachusetts Forestry Committee. The NHESP and its collaborators encourage all stakeholders in Massachusetts forestland to review and comment on CMPs. As CMPs are implemented and feedback is received, the NHESP and its collaborators plan to revise CMPs periodically as needed. To comment on the CMPs, please submit written comments by email to brent.powers@state.ma.us or by letter to the NHESP office.

What is the Current Status of CMPs?

Seven CMP documents have been drafted thus far, addressing eight state-listed species and one recently de-listed species: Four-toed Salamander, Blue-spotted Salamander, Jefferson Salamander, Marbled Salamander, Blanding's Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, Spotted Turtle (de-listed), Wood Turtle, and Common Loon. All CMP documents other than those for Blanding's Turtle and Four-toed Salamander have undergone a formal public review and comment period. Additional CMP documents will be developed over the coming year.

Which CMPs Apply to my Property?

To determine which CMP documents might apply to a forestry project on your property, please submit a completed MESA Information Request Form to the NHESP. However, if your project is to be conducted for habitat management or conservation purposes, and you are a non-profit conservation group, government agency, or working with a government agency, please submit a completed Data Release Form instead. For further information about these forms, please call (508) 389-6361.

Agency Contacts: