March 1, 2012
Government Hatching Plan To Save One Owl, Kill Another
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is constructing a plan to try and save the endangered northern spotted owl, by conserving habitat and killing its rival.
The government has already set aside millions of acres of forest to protect the owl, but the bird's population has declined 40 percent in 25 years, and continues to drop.The plan would see that more forest habitat critical for the bird's survival would be set off limits. Habitat loss and competition from barred owls are major threats to the spotted owl.
The American Bird Conservancy said that the service is also proposing management standards that could allow logging of owl habitat in forests east of the Cascades.
The group said the federal move is a welcome one in the battle to save the owls and their habitat.
"The increase in the amount of old-growth forest designated as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl is a triumph of sound science," Steve Holmer, the conservancy's senior policy adviser, said in a statement.
"Protecting the owl's old-growth forest habitat will also help communities and the nation by preserving a world-class tourism destination, a sustainable recreation economy, and a source of clean drinking water for millions of people."
He said the group would like to see research on a small-scale thinning project to determine whether logging would be beneficial or not.
"On the other hand, the service's plan to weaken forest protections east of the Cascade Mountains could open the door to extensive logging in owl habitat before we know whether it is beneficial," he added.
Also as part of the plan, the government is considering an experiment where it would kill or transfer some barred owls in order to save the spotted owl.
According to the environmental impact statement on the plan, depending on the number of sites, the service would kill or transfer 257 to nearly 8,960 barred owls.
Killing the barred owls would involve attracting them with recorded calls and shooting those that respond.
“We can´t ignore the mounting evidence that competition from barred owls is a major factor in the spotted owl´s decline, and we have a clear obligation to do all we can to prevent the spotted owl´s extinction and help it rebound,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said Tuesday in a news release.
The new proposal by the service is in the public review process, and it will be accepting public comment on the experiment plan for 90 days.
Image Caption: Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). Six Rivers National Forest, NW California. Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service/Hollingsworth, John and Karen
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