Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Scientists: Spotted owl plan still not good enough

Ecotrope | Dec. 17, 2010 6:38 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:43 p.m.

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Chris Warren

Is the Obama administration’s plan for saving the spotted owl any better than the Bush administration’s plan? Scientists from 20 environment and wildlife groups say not much.

The AP’s Jeff Barnard scooped up some new protests from wildlife scientists who don’t like the Obama administration’s plan for saving the Northern spotted owl from extinction. They’re arguing that, like the Bush administration’s 2008 plan, it opens too much old growth forest habitat to logging.

One of the key features of the new recovery plan is an emphasis on mapping high-quality owl habitat and adding special protection on those lands while leaving other federal forestland open to logging activities – particularly non-clearcut logging, or thinning, which can help reduce fire and restore habitat in overstocked forests.

Scientists from 20 organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saying recommendations for thinning operations lacked data on the impacts to owls and their prey, and the findings on impacts to owls from forest fires “are not based on defensible data sources.”

They told the Service they oppose any plan that strays from the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan. Because the owl’s numbers continue to decline, they wrote, the feds should protect “all suitable habitat (and not just high-quality)” and limit all beneficial thinning and forest management activities in the recovery plan to “monitored experiments on a small scale” until the risks and benefits to the owl can be proven.

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