FLA and North Carolina Members Submit Comments on Strict 4(d) Rule for Neuse River Waterdog

On July 30, the USFWS re-opened the comment period for their 4(d) rule for the threatened Neuse River waterdog – an aquatic salamander native to the Neuse River in North Carolina. The proposed 4(d) rule required trout stream BMPs to protect the species, rather than the regular state BMPs. These overly stringent requirements posed the potential to set a burdensome precedent for future 4(d) rules for aquatic species.

FLA and other forestry stakeholders in the area worked together to flood the USFWS with comments on the rule, stressing that state-approved, science-backed BMPs are adequate to protect aquatic species. FLA submitted strong comments on behalf of our members, stressing the impact that misguided regulatory actions can have on voluntary collaboration with the broader forest landowner community. We also activated our membership network in North Carolina, providing talking points for easy comment submission in the Federal Register. As a result of this campaign, 10 of the 29 comments received on the rule were submitted by FLA members. This grassroots approach helped to amplify our message by allowing the voices of our members to be heard, including personal stories about how this regulation will impact their ownership and forest management.

FLA also participated in a virtual meeting with NAFO, NCASI, and the USFWS North Carolina Field Office to discuss the 4(d) rule for the Neuse River waterdog. We urged the Service to consider adopting state forestry BMPs for the 4(d) rule, resulting in a more transparent, science-based, and workable regulation. The discussions were very productive, and our concerns were well received by the authors of the 4(d) rule and their supervisors.

Thanks to the engagement of our members and the relationships that the forestry community is building with the Service, we have successfully ensured that forest landowners’ voices have been heard on this issue.