Twenty years ago the Northern Spotted Owl became the symbol of the forest wars in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Now, as the Great Recession hits former timber towns that have never recovered from the demise of sustained yield forest management on federal forestlands, federal bureaucrats have released a "Recovery Plan" for the owl.
Like everything else regarding the Spotted Owl, the new plan is cloaked in science, although some critics say the science is shaky at best.
Since President Clinton adopted the Northwest Forest Plan to save the Spotted Owl and other so-called old growth forest dependent species, Spotted Owl numbers continue to decline.
Oregon has seen the closure of over 150 lumber mills and the disappearance of nearly 60,000 timber jobs. So why does the Spotted Owl continue to struggle? The experts say there are a lot of reasons.
One of the biggest is that the larger, more aggressive Barred Owl has taken over much of the Spotted Owl's habitat. Originally, the two different breeds produced so-called sparred owls. Lately, Barred Owls have given up trying to "get along" with Spotted Owls and are now growing in population and spreading.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has contacted private forestland owners in Oregon wondering if they would allow a Barred Owl "management" program on their forests.
"Management?" That's biologist-speak for allowing young college students to hunt and shoot to kill Barred Owls during their summers! As one would expect, forestland owners are hesitant to allow potential calamity on their property.
So the Spotted Owl's great threat, according to scientists, is no longer the logging industry. Now it is the Barred Owl that thrives on unharvested timberland.