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Spotted Owl and the Pacific Northwest Loggers

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Submitted By lauradale3
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It goes without saying that human beings find beauty in all things rare. We covet uniqueness, scarcity and anything special. This does not exclude the many threatened and endangered species in the U.S. The Northern spotted owl is one of those precious gems. As its population declines due to deforestation, conservationists fight the timber industry. However, pointing fingers at Pacific Northwest loggers, Americans who work hard for their families, doesn’t seem to be solving the crisis. Spotted owls make their homes within the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Massive trees, (cedars, firs, hemlocks and spruces to name a few), sink their roots deep into the soil. These aging trees serve to prevent landslides, erosion and give homes to the many forest creatures. 150 years of logging has left a mere ten percent of these forests. Fewer trees mean fewer spotted owls. Forced to live in “cluster habitats”, or small pieces of protected forest, young owls have little territory to disperse to and their survival rate has dropped. “If habitat destruction is halted soon, there will therefore be some owls left after 100 or even 200 years, barring other catastrophes ( Doak, 1989.)” Throughout Washington and Oregon about 2,500 to 3,000 pairs of Northern spotted owls still reside in old growth. Their numbers continue to plummet. The Pacific Northwest depends greatly upon independent and large timber companies. As a whole, the multi-billion dollar industry eradicates 125,000 acres of old-growth forest each year. This sturdy wood not only supports U.S. demand, but also supplies wood to lumber-poor countries such as Japan. While environmentalists push for reduced logging, Northwest communities realize the devastation this could bring. “Environmentalists admit that saving the owls’ habitat could cost jobs Andre, Velasquez, 2010).” Even loggers understand the reality of forest loss. At the current rate of destruction, old-growth forests will vanish in thirty years along with over 28, 000 jobs. Maintaining young forest growth, re-planting and preventing forest fires are a few of the ways timber industries keep the forests alive. Finding a solution for the decreasing Northern spotted owl population has been a long struggle. Pleasing both sides, loggers and environmentalists, isn’t easy. Progress has been made, however. In June, 1990, the spotted owl was declared as threatened. The Obama administration has taken a closer look at Bush-era regulations, many of which meddled with owl protective actions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS,) began an experimental effort to reduce the population of a competitive bird, the Barred owl, in February of 2012. Saving the spotted owl requires cooperation. FWS director, Daniel Ashe, understands the importance of informing timber companies and landowners about what and how they can log, and the forest does need to be logged. Ashe said, “The science is telling us that unmanaged, fire-prone forests aren’t healthy for either the landscape or the spotted owl (Stokstad,2012 ).” Another solution would be to restrict raw timber exports and process the wood in the U.S., creating thousands of jobs. Many ideas and necessary actions have taken place in hopes of saving the Northern Spotted Owl. Of all of these attempts the best solution is still cooperation. No two sides can have it all. Perhaps by meeting somewhere in the middle we can manage forest growth, preserve owl habitat, and save jobs. Working together, environmentalists and communities of the Pacific Northwest can help save precious gems like the Northwest spotted owl.

Andre, C., & Valasquez, M. (n.d.). Ethics and the Environment: The Spotted Owl Controversy. Santa Clara University - Welcome. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from
Doak, D. (1989, December). Spotted Owls and Old Growth Logging in the Pacific Northwest. Conservation Biology, 3, 389-396.
Stokstad, E. (2012, February 28). U.S. Proposes to Save Spotted Owl With Chainsaws and Shotguns. Science Insider, 1, 1

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