Critical Habitat: What is it?

When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, we must consider whether there are areas of habitat we believe are essential to the species’ conservation. Those areas may be proposed for designation as “critical habitat.” The determination and designation of critical habitat is one of the most controversial and confusing aspects of the Act. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about critical habitat.

Habitat Conservation Plans: Working Together for Endangered Species

Habitat Conservation Plans under the Endangered Species Act provide a framework for people to complete projects while conserving at-risk species of plants and animals. Congress envisioned Habitat Conservation Plans as integrating development and land-use activities with conservation in a climate of cooperation.

Herbaceous Plants for Wildlife

Herbaceous plants are typically sun-loving, non-woody plants that occupy fields, road-sides and clearings. While common in large openings, they may be a limiting factor to woodland wildlife, particularly wild turkey and ruffed grouse. This publication describes methods for maintaining and establishing these valuable sources of food and cover for wildlife.

Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants

North Carolina’s native plants provide well-adapted food and cover for North Carolina’s native animals, and a well-planned landscape of native plants can help you attract a diversity of wildlife to your property. Native North Carolina plants also are well-suited to the state’s soils and climate and require relatively little upkeep, once established on an appropriate site. However, the spread of exotic plants poses a threat to native plants and animals of North Carolina. This publication describes the problems associated with some exotic plants and presents a detailed list of native plants that may be used in place of these foreign ornamentals to attract wildlife to your property.

Low-Cost Habitat Improvements

Managing for wildlife involves the maintenance and enhancement of the food, water, and cover components necessary for healthy populations. The smaller habitats that abound on private lands and in many backyards can be enhanced using a variety of improvement options. Wildlife improvements can be simple, inexpensive and fun for the whole family. This publication discusses selected low-cost habitat improvements that will enhance food and cover for wildlife on private lands.

Managing Edges for Wildlife

Edges (or ecotones) are areas where two habitat types meet, such as a forest and a meadow. Edges also occur between different aged patches of the same habitat type. Edges occur naturally where there are abrupt changes in soil characteristics or where fire or severe wind destroy part of a forest, but most edges are created by human activities, such as agriculture or timber harvest.

Providing Habitat Needs for Wildlife Through Forest and Agricultural Management

In general, good habitat conditions for wildlife can be created while managing timber or farming operations. In some cases, no additional costs are required. Information presented here will help in planning for an integrated land management program that optimizes timber growth, crop production, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities on private land.

Snags and Downed Logs

A snag is a standing dead or dying tree, and a downed log is a log that is lying on or near the forest floor. Snags, logs, and woody debris are natural occurrences in mature forests. Trees can be killed by lightning, storm breakage, fire, disease, insects, or a variety of other factors. Resource managers are becoming more aware of the importance of snags and rotting, downed logs as wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, forest practices such as shorter rotations, firewood removal, timber stand improvement and insect and disease control efforts have limited the number of snags and downed logs available for wildlife habitat. Creating and protecting them in the forest is a simple, low cost habitat improvement that has great benefits for a wide range of wildlife species.

Wildlife and Forest Stewardship

Developing forestland to continually produce timber and provide wildlife habitat requires an active management plan. Forest stewardship, the process of managing all of the forest’s natural resources together, enables us to conserve our forest resources, including timber, wildlife, soil, and water. Forestry and wildlife management are not only compatible, they are interrelated. Managing for wildlife habitat can even improve forest productivity. This publication describes the basic concepts of management, showing how forestry operations affect wildlife habitat.

Woodland Wildlife Nest Boxes

In a perfect world there would be plenty of cavities and dead trees in forests for all the wildlife species that require them. However, young plantations and many natural timber stands often lack adequate cavities. This publication will focus on constructing and placing artificial nest boxes.