By Rebekah Rast — A 1-pound bird attributed to the demise of the logging industry some 20 years ago in the northwest part of the country is back in the news.
The bird is the northern spotted owl, an endangered species, which is still struggling to survive, despite huge federal government interventions.
The latest plan by President Obama is to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has dominated its smaller counterpart.
This must be one special bird — worth killing another bird over and an entire industry that was once vital to this country as well as the thousands of jobs that went along with it.
The spotted owl was once thought to only be able to survive in old forests, overgrown and unmaintained. When it became an endangered special in 1990, and even before, great cutbacks were made in the logging industry throughout California, Oregon and Washington states. Yet, despite massive growths in forest land, the owl’s population continues to decline.
Bob Mion, communications director at California Forestry Association, said that many sawmills in Washington State were forced to shut down because of the spotted owl. Come to find out, he says, the owl thrives on managed lands, not the untouched, mismanaged federal lands. The owl’s favorite food is a wood rat, Mion claims. “If the forest is overgrown, it can’t see the rat.”
And that insight forestry experts have known for years is finally making its way to the White House — hopefully.
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar claims that some protected land where the spotted owl resides will be re-opened to what is left of the logging industry. A statement by the Interior Department states, “This proposal recommends substantially increasing active management of forests, consistent with ecological forestry principles, in areas designated as critical habitat.”
However, many forestry organizations are doubtful that the timber industry will reemerge in these protected forests. The Statesman Journal quotes American Forest Resource Council President Tom Partin as saying, “Habitat is not the current limiting factor for the northern spotted owl, nor is historic loss of old-growth. In fact, the amount of old growth on our federal forests is increasing while the spotted owl’s numbers are decreasing.” Partin went on to say he was skeptical that “so-called ecological logging would produce a significant amount of timber or jobs.”
It seems the spotted owl is just another example of the government picking winners and losers. Never mind that the natural-residing barred owl is a stronger more adaptable bird with a more varied diet and habitat. The government has made up its mind: The spotted owl wins.
“Every action has a reaction and the more we mess with nature and natural occurrences the more we create a new mess,” says Don Todd, director of research for Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “While resolving one problem a bigger and worse problem is created at the same time.”
By the government trying to save one species, of which to date none of its methods have been successful, it has caused much harm. Livelihoods of those people and communities that depended on the timber industry were crushed under the government’s heavy environmental hand, and now the population of a successful native species is about to be greatly impacted in the name of the spotted owl.
“I always thought it was God’s job to take care of population growth, but I guess now it’s the government’s,” says Bill Wilson, president of ALG.
He jokes, “Makes you wonder how species and humans alike survived before this administration.”