Battle continues over the Spotted Owl

The battle over the Northern Spotted Owl between environmentalists and logging interests continues.  A new study suggests that the assumptions the Bush Administration used to justify more logging in old growth forests are flawed.

The author of the study Chad T. Hanson, a fire and forest ecologist at the University of California, Davis found no increasing threat of severe wild fires destroying Spotted Owl habitat in old growth forests in the drier areas of the owl’s range in Oregon, Washington and California.

The Bush Adminstration produced a new Spotted Owl Recovery Plan to resolve a timber industry lawsuit.  The plan placed the responsibility for a declining owl population on the Barred Owl, an aggressive cousin of the Spotted Owl that has driven the Spotted Owl from its territory and on wildfires that have destroyed old growth habitat.

The Obama Adminstration said in Federal Court that it would not defend the Bush Plan.
The Adminstration is negotiating with environmental groups that filed lawsuits over the scope and timing for a review of the 2008 Spotted Owl Recovery Plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be reviewing the Hanson Study as part of the information used to determine if changes need to be made to the plan.

At stake for the timber industry is access to 6.4 million acres of federal land west of the Cascade Mountain’s Crest in Oregon, Washington and California identified as owl conservation areas.

The Northern Spotted Owl recovery plan, released in 2008, called for federal land managers to maintain older, complex forest west of the Cascades’s crest.  This land is in addition to the designated conservation areas and is meant as interim measure to help buffer the Barred Owl threat while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learns how to address it.

The 2008 plan called for shifting habitat patches to react to loss of habitat due to fire or insect damage on the arid east side of the owl’s range.

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