OPB's Rob Manning made a key connection in this story about more logging on Oregon's state forests. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized its plan for recovering the northern spotted owl, and it includes using new mapping technology to find new potential habitat for the threatened bird (as well as killing competing barred owls).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janet Lebson says the feds haven’t reviewed the new state forest plans. But she says since the state of Oregon – not the federal government – owns much of the land in the north Coast Range, the feds want the state to help.
“That is an area that we’ve identified in the spotted owl recovery plan, where we would like to work more with the Oregon Department of Forestry to see if there are some conservation measures we can take, to fill in some of the gaps, there.”
Will the feds find new potential habitat for the owl on state forestland in the Coast Range? And if they do ... what then? Will the state have to put the brakes on its new plans to log more timber from those forests?
Spotted owls don't generally hang out in these forests because they were almost completely cut over or burned from 1930s to the 1950s. That's actually the reason the state now owns the land – because it had no logging value left and its owners stopped paying taxes on it. So, there's virtually no old growth in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. But that doesn't mean there couldn't one day be suitable owl habitat there again.
There are three spotted owl pair sites in the Clatsop State Forest among hundreds of barred owls, according to assistant district forester Ron Zilli. However, the state has spent a lot of time mapping out "anchor sites" for salmon and spotted owls where no clear-cuts are allowed under the new management plan.
There is no binding federal requirement for the state to reserve land for the spotted owl. The state has to get a "take" permit to log in an area where there are known spotted owls, but as I noted earlier, there aren't many of those.
State Forester Doug Decker told Manning he doesn’t see a conflict between the state’s plans – which prioritize logging – and the federal goals to conserve forestland for the spotted owl. That's in part because the state has taken owl protection into its own hands. But as the young state forests mature, this conversation between the feds and the state about which areas to save for spotted owls will be interesting to follow.