Wildlife Officials Approve Plan to Kill Up to 103 Threatened Northern Spotted Owls
The Klamath National Forest covers roughly 1,700,000 acres between California and Oregon. Aside from being a beautiful place for people to hike, boat and swim, the Forest “also helps to meet local and national needs for timber, gold, and other natural resources,” explains the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (FS).
What the federal agency fails to mention is that sometimes these “needs” for natural resources trump sound science and environmental stewardship.
Most recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) gave the FS the green light to kill more than 100 threatened northern spotted owls for a project that allows for activities such as commercial logging and road-building according to California news station KCET.
Timber Profits are More Important Than Protecting a Threatened Owl Species?
The official project is known as the Westside Fire Recovery Project, and it will clear-cut 6,800 acres near the Klamath River — which overlaps with spotted owl territory. While the recovery project is being promoted as something positive for the environment to reduce fire dangers, conservationists cast doubt on that reason and suggest an ulterior motive could be at play. The FS advertised timber sales last year.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Westside project may “incidentally take” 74 adult owls and up to 12-29 juveniles. (“Take” is just a nice way to say kill.) While wildlife officials maintain that the project won’t negatively impact the owl’s future, some scientists aren’t as confident.
From 1985 to 2013, the spotted owl‘s population has experienced a decline of almost 4 percent per year. Even though the Klamath Mountains are believed to be a hopeful place for recovery of the species, over 70 percent of the proposed logging area overlaps with spaces designated to prevent the owl’s extinction.
Destroying the northern spotted owl’s habitat just makes it more vulnerable. Officially listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1990, two of its main threats are “habitat loss and competition from the barred owl,” says the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. Before they were protected under the ESA, rampant timber harvesting and land conversions were driving that habitat loss.
Consequently, when the owls are forced to live closer together in smaller forest patches, “they become more susceptible to starvation, predation, or further loss of habitat due to natural destruction such as windstorms,” explain Oregon wildlife officials. In a nutshell, the problem of habitat loss contributing to the owl’s decline hasn’t been solved — it’s just being managed and limited (by the same officials who are entrusted to protect them). The owl’s preference for old-growth forests means that it’s deeply impacted by clear-cut logging.
The innocent lives of 103 threatened northern spotted owls are in danger. Sign and share this petition demanding that wildlife officials put protecting northern spotted owls over timber profits.
Photo Credit: USFWS Endangered Species