Washington Secrets

It’s back: Northern Spotted Owl

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Photo - (AP Photo/Debra Reid)
(AP Photo/Debra Reid)
Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The endangered Northern Spotted Owl, which some loggers credit with killing the industry in Pacific Northwest old growth forests, is being used again to rally conservationists against logging.

In a letter signed by over 50 major environmental and conservation groups, President Obama is being urged not to open forests for timbering because it would threaten the newly secure habitat of the the tall birdy put on the endangered species list in 1990.

At issue is a draft administration study that finds enough habitat for the owl, raising fears among conservationists that some land in California, Oregon and Washington will be opened for logging instead of being set aside for the owl.

It also comes as loggers are complaining that the current forest plan covering Northwest areas isn’t producing the promised timber.

“The criticism is not valid,” said Robert Johns of the Washington-based American Bird Conservancy [http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120702.html]. “Leave it alone and let it continue to do its job,” he said of the forest plan.



Also, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife service is looking to designate up to 10 million acres as critical habitat for the owl. That, however, would not prohibit logging.

Below is the letter sent to Obama:
                
                    
July 2, 2012
                    
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington D.C. 20500
                    
Dear President Obama,
                    
The undersigned organizations urge your support for the conservation of the mature and old- growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. These magnificent forests provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans, a world-class tourism destination, sustainable forestry, and habitat essential to the survival of hundreds of species of wildlife.
                    
Conservation of the old-growth ecosystem as symbolized by the Northwest Forest Plan developed under the leadership of President Bill Clinton was a significant environmental advance that ended decades of unsustainable management practices in the region.
                    
Studies show that the Northwest Forest Plan is working as intended to retain mature and old forests, and that the highly fragmented forest ecosystem is growing back into the large blocks of mature forest habitat needed to maintain water quality and recover threatened species such as the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet and Pacific salmon stocks.
                    
Your administration recently released a draft Critical Habitat proposal for the Northern Spotted Owl that identifies sufficient habitat necessary to conserve the threatened species and the old- growth ecosystem upon which it depends. We commend the agency’s use of modeling to identify the proposed acreage which we believe represents the best available science.
                    
However, the draft plan and accompanying Presidential Memorandum raise concern because of the proposed active management in owl critical habitat that is not supported by the best available science. Three major scientific societies are advising the administration to conduct more research on the effects of active management on owl populations before treatments are applied more broadly. We agree with the scientists’ call for caution.
                    
The draft also includes provisions that could have the unintended consequence of weakening or eliminating habitat protections of the Northwest Forest Plan. We respectfully urge the administration to modify the proposed Critical Habitat rule to ensure that the protected reserves of the Northwest Forest Plan are maintained so that future generations of Americans will be assured they will have an opportunity to enjoy the splendor of these old-growth forests.

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