Giving a Hoot: MCTC Water and Animal Management

A pivotal part of Timber Products Company's sustainability efforts revolve around the need to manage entire ecosystems—from wildlife and fish to water and air quality. This means protecting the habitats of a wide range of threatened species, including Scott Bar salamanders, bald eagles and spotted owls.


Dirk Embree, Timber Products' wildlife biologist and registered professional forester, is responsible for ensuring the company’s wildlife surveys and practices are compliant with Forest Practice Rules and the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. It is a complex process that varies for each species. His work begins with a proposed harvest plan, which he and his team examine for potential habitats of listed species, then review company and state databases for occurrences.  Following an internal review process, the team takes to the ground.


We take special care when managing the various species on our timberlands. For the spotted owl, for example, the company is required to retain a certain number of acres of suitable habitat around nest and roost sites, and elsewhere within the owls’ home range. To determine these areas, the team maps known locations of the owls, reviews aerial photographs of the proposed harvest areas and surroundings, as well as uses timber inventory data and ground-truthing to determine the type of habitat. “We label the habitat as nesting/roosting, foraging, low foraging and non-habitat,” explains Embree. “From there we’ll start surveying to see what we find.”

There are numerous owl sites located within a half mile of the ownership, and although spotted owls have a tendency to return to the same nest stand each year, they frequently move their nest site to a new location each year. These sites are typically within a quarter mile of their previous years’ nest, but they may use an alternate site that can be a half mile or more away when their typical prey—wood rats, flying squirrels and rabbits—is depleted. The invasion by the barred owl into California has also spurred spotted owls to move their nest and roost sites.

At the beginning of spring each year, Timber Products hits the ground with two technicians to search for owls until mid-summer. “To find them, we survey at night, then, following a detection, we relocate the birds during the day, and mouse them to determine their breeding status and nest or roost location,” said Embree. If they are nesting, the techs document where their nest tree is, and that serves as the center for determining the habitat to protect.

Other species, such as the Scott Bar salamander, are protected using a “flag and avoid” process. These salamanders are found in tallous rock with interstitial spaces that allow the salamander to go deep under ground to find cool, damp environments necessary to keep their skin moist and cool during dry periods and the hot summer. “We identify and flag those areas, and leave the trees as shade canopy and their habitat undisturbed. Essentially, we give them a buffer,” said Embree.

Ultimately, the foresters are able to create a healthier forest from which animals and people can benefit.

“I am a firm believer that we can manage wildlife, fisheries, clean water and timber,” said Embree. “I also believe timber is the greatest, greenest resource we have.” We agree, Dirk.

Find out more about our forest practices as well as the Michigan-California Timber Company.

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