Review of Forest Cutting Plans
We review forestry projects when harvesting is proposed within Estimated Habitat and/or Priority Habitat. The review determines whether the proposed activities will result in harm to state-listed rare species or their habitats, termed a Take under the MESA. Forest management projects are exempt from the standard MESA project-filing requirements, provided they have an approved Forest Cutting Plan (FCP) as required under the Forest Cutting Practices Act (M.G.L. c. 132 sec. 40-46) and its implementing regulations (302 CMR 16.00).
FCPs are submitted to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for review and approval. If the forest management project is within Estimated and or Priority Habitat, DCR staff forward the FCP to us for review. We then review the plan to determine whether the proposed activities will result in harm to state-listed rare species or their habitats.
If the project site is only in Priority Habitat, there is a 10-day deadline to issue a determination letter to the DCR. If the project is within both Priority Habitat and Estimated Habitat, the deadline is 15 business days.
We then send our determination letter to the DCR Service Forester indicating whether any modifications to the FCP are necessary to avoid harm to state-listed rare species or their habitats. The DCR Service Forester then modifies the FCP to incorporate the our modifications before final approval.
Activities secondary to, but associated with, forest management such as invasive species management, post-management restoration, or installation of access gates may be submitted as part of the FCP. When including these types of activities, please provide the following details as an attachment to the FCP:
- description of the activity;
- means and methods;
- time of year for implementation; and
- a location/map of proposed activities.
Please note that certain activities – such as installation of permanent wetland crossings and permanent upgrades to forest roads/paths and landings – likely require review under a MESA Project Review Checklist.
Streamlining the MESA review process
In collaboration with the DCR, the University of Massachusetts Extension Service, and the our own forestry staff, we developed specific guidelines for working in habitats of state-listed rare species which most frequently present potential challenges for forestry activities. The guidelines, called Forestry Conservation Management Practices (CMPs), provide guidance for proactively developing and executing a Forest Cutting Plans that will reduce or eliminate harm to those state-listed rare species and their habitats.
Specifically, Forestry CMPs:
- identify and describe potential impacts of timber harvesting to state-listed species and their habitats;
- provide specific guidelines to avoid or minimize impacts, whether 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);
- 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; and
- aim to maintain continued, sustainable management of timber products in Massachusetts while adequately protecting state-listed species and their habitats.
Forestry CMPs benefit both state-listed species and forest management by:
- improving the predictability and consistency of our FCP reviews; and
- providing detailed guidance to landowners and foresters for developing FCPs that have high probability of being approved by NHESP without modification.
Rare plants in the forest
State-listed rare plants can represent both a unique challenge and a potential conservation opportunity. For some plants, forest management projects can have positive impacts, but for others, the plants must be avoided. Surveys for rare plants are often necessary, but most plants can be identified only at certain times of the year. Depending on when the FCP is submitted, this has potential to delay harvest.
Requesting a pre-filing consultation with us well in advance of submitting your FCP to DCR can help identify and reduce much of this potential delay. In many cases, we are able to conduct the rare plant surveys to identify what, if any, restrictions this may have on the project. Additionally, we have developed a Rare Plant Guidance document for forestry management projects within rare plant habitat.
Request a pre-filing consultation
For large or complex projects (multi-year, have a long-term goal with known future activities, include multiple types of management, etc.), or to proactively address rare species concerns and opportunities before submitting a FCP, we recommend you contact us early in the planning stage to discuss potential MESA-related considerations.
Pre-filing consultations are free, save applicants time and money, and help avoid or minimize harvesting delays. They can also be especially beneficial in the design of Chapter 61 Forest Management Plans and Forest Stewardship Plans. Pre-filing consultations allow foresters to design stand prescriptions and associated rotations with rare species in mind, helping to avoid having to mark timber twice (in case changes are required) and to plan around any timing restrictions that may be required to survey for or protect rare species.
To request a pre-filing consultation before formally filing a plan with DCR, please submit the following (via e-mail) to Alexandra Echandi, Endangered Species Review Biologist, at email@example.com:
- locus map with project property boundaries clearly identified;
- preliminary stand map; and
- a brief description of what you would like to do and when you would ideally like to start the harvest.
Within 2 weeks of receiving this information, we will contact you to discuss your plans and provide additional information and comments to help streamline the review process.
Open M–F, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. (closed noon–12:30 for lunch)
Southeastern Massachusetts/Cape & Islands
Westborough, MA 01581