The Endangered Species Act exists to protect biodiversity. It can only work when species listed as endangered are actually afforded the protections guaranteed to them in the Act. Unfortunately these days, even earning classification as an endangered species doesn’t always mean safety from harm.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service approved a plan that would allow Fruit Growers Supply Co. accelerate logging of occupied spotted owl habitat in California’s old growth forests.
The plan to raze trees that have been growing for hundreds of years is appalling enough, but the agencies also granted the company permission to ”take,” that is, harm or kill, more than 80 northern spotted owls living in those woods. This is nearly 50 percent of the total spotted owl population believed to reside in the area.
Owls of all types are vital to forest ecosystems, as they feed on rodents typically considered vermin. “Like its cousins the Mexican and northern spotted owls, the California spotted owl is a bellwether of old-growth forests,” explains The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). This owl’s classic four-note call was once commonly heard throughout the big trees of the Sierra Nevada and Southern California ranges, but logging, sprawl, and invasion by the barred owl…are silencing it.”
CBD is just one of three environmental organizations who filed a lawsuit [pdf] against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for approving the logging plan last week.
“Fruit Growers’ 50-year plan targets endangered species and the forests that sustain them in the first 10 years in exchange for 40 years of empty promises to do good after the habitat and the species are gone,” said George Sexton, conversation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, in a press release. “The plan fails rare species and is a big step backwards for healthy forests and rivers in Northern California.”
Under certain circumstances, companies have been granted permission to violate the Endangered Species Act when ”the plan limits that harm as much as possible and includes concrete and certain measures that provide additional protections for listed species.”
According to the organizations who’ve filed suit, the Fruit Growers’ plan calls for 10 years of total forest liquidation, and “the promises for long-term habitat protections after the forests are logged…are either vague or non-binding, and in no way solve the problems the logging would create.”
“The math on this plan simply doesn’t add up. Old-growth forests that take hundreds of years to grow can’t be replaced in 50 years,” said Tim Ream, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in the same release. “These irreplaceable Northern California forests and the wildlife that lives in them need to be preserved, not sold off for vague promises of improvements that may never happen.”
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