Share This Page

Owl vs. owl: Plan to thin species advances

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 4:57 p.m.

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Federal wildlife officials plan to dispatch armed bird specialists into forests of the Pacific Northwest starting this fall to shoot one species of owl to protect another that is threatened with extinction.

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a final environmental review of an experiment to see whether killing barred owls will allow northern spotted owls to reclaim territory they've been driven out of during the past half-century.

The agency has been evaluating the idea since 2009, gathering public comment and consulting ethicists, focus groups and scientific studies. It will issue a final decision on the plan in a month.

“If we don't manage barred owls, the probability of recovering the spotted owl goes down significantly,” said Paul Henson, Oregon state supervisor for Fish and Wildlife.

The agency's preferred course of action calls for killing 3,603 barred owls in four study areas in Oregon, Washington and Northern California during the next four years.

The plan is expected to cost about $3 million and requires a special permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits killing nongame birds.

Neither the timber industry nor the Audubon Society was pleased with it.

“Shooting a few isolated areas of barred owl isn't going to help us as forest managers, nor is it going to help the forest be protected from wildfires, and catastrophic wildfire is one of the big impediments to spotted owl recovery,” said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, said saving the spotted owl is of paramount importance, but the focus must remain on protecting habitat.

“To move forward with killing barred owls without addressing the fundamental cause of spotted owl declines, from our perspective, is not acceptable,” he said.

Henson said the Northwest Forest Plan, which cut logging by 90 percent on national forests in the 1990s, has done a good job of providing habitat for the spotted owl. But the owls' numbers have continued to slide.

Henson said unless barred owls are brought under control, the spotted owl in coming decades might disappear from Washington's northern Cascade Range and Oregon's Coast Range, where the barred owl incursion has been greatest.

It has taken the federal government a long time to get to this point. The California Academy of Sciences killed some barred owls in spotted owl territory on the Klamath National Forest in Northern California in 2005, and the owner of some redwood timberlands in Northern California regularly kills barred owls to protect spotted owls.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.