Timber Industry Expects No Change in Northern Spotted Owl Status on Endangered List
GRANTS PASS, Ore. − The timber industry group that sued to have the threatened species status of the northern spotted owl reviewed does not expect the bird to be dropped from federal protection, but hopes new information will allow more logging in national forests.
"I don't see how it could be taken off the list," said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland. "Let's do what we need to do to protect the species based on the true risk, not some flawed notion (owls) are solely dependent on old growth."
The bird has been the focus of bitter debate in the Pacific Northwest since federal officials sharply reduced logging in the early 1990s, and became a symbol of the region's timber wars.
According to a study conducted by a private firm for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the northern spotted owl continues on the decline despite efforts to protect it, and faces a host of new threats such as wildfires and the barred owl, which is taking over spotted owl habitat in the West.
Under terms of a 2003 lawsuit settlement, Monday was the deadline for the wildlife agency to decide whether the northern spotted owl still merits federal protection.
"Whether it comes today or in a week, that's not as important as something that's based on the new reality of what's threatening the owl," West said.
Susan Ash, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, did not expect any change in the bird's status, based on conversations with scientists who conducted the study.
Ash noted, however, conservationists might seek endangered species status for the spotted owl on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, where declines have been sharper than elsewhere.
The report also suggested that overall, northern spotted owls declined by about 3.7 percent per year from 1985 to 2003. The drop was especially steep in Washington state, where the number of owls went down by about 7.3 percent per year.
Source: Associated Press