California spotted owl plans

One of the hottest topics on this site recently has involved the effects of salvage logging on California spotted owls. Sometime soon, the three southern Sierra national forests will release their draft revised plans and EIS, which will describe how they intend to resolve this management question, and what the effects of their proposed management would be. I thought it would be worth a quick look at how they have approached the question so far in the planning process.

Here is pretty much the extent of the information in the Sierra NF Assessment (January 2014):

While lightening caused fires are part of the natural ecosystem, suppression of them has led to conditions that can result in large areas of high severity effects that may be detrimental to old forest species such as the fisher or California spotted owl. There is some uncertainty about the effects of fire severity on these species (Keane 2013 and Zielinski 2013)… In addition, California spotted owls may occupy burned forest landscapes for breeding but primarily following low to moderate severity fires (p. 26)

It is unknown how fisher, marten, California spotted owl and goshawk respond to restoration treatments. (p. 38)

The updated “need for change” document (June 2014) states:

Consider new information (e.g., PSW GTR 220/237, California Spotted Owl Conservation Assessment, and the Science Synthesis) in developing or updating forest plan components to improve ecological conditions for the California spotted owl.

This document is supposed to explain what changes are needed in the existing plan based on the assessment.  GTR-PSW-237 is a 2012 document updating GTR-PSW-220 from 2009; the assessment does not cite these existing documents in its discussion of spotted owls.  The ongoing Conservation Assessment was intended to be complete for use in developing the draft revised plan, but is now not scheduled for completion until fall 2016 (well after the draft plan and EIS).  This doesn’t give me a good feeling about a decision informed by the best available scientific information with full public participation.  It doesn’t seem like they have made much of a case yet for compatibility of spotted owls and salvage logging.

(The current status of the new conservation assessment can be followed here.  There was a webinar on December 8.)

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for a good post Jon, and for the update that – in your opinion – ‘it doesn’t seem like they have made much of a case yet for compatibility of spotted owls and salvage logging.’

  2. So if we can prove that salvage logging is good for owls it would be ok to salvage log? Maybe we can prove that burning them up and there nesting habitat and killing millions of trees is good for them too? Who would of thought that salvage logging and spotted owls are suppose to be compatible anyways.
    I think we should be talking about utilizing small amounts of the burned dead timber to help created products, employment, economy, local social health, future forest recreational and management opportunities. All this can be done without harming and even aiding the ability of the forest to grow back and it habitats to flourish after catastrophic wildfires.

  3. If the Conservation Assessment isn’t completed prior to these EIS’s, I would think the current Interim Guidelines would apply. These do at least acknowledge the value of burned forest where they were previously occupied by owls. Burned forest may only provide ephemeral habitat, but presumably it is important if the owls return.

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