Spotted Owls: The Clinton Plan Revisited

Paul Fattig has written a nice summary on the NW Forest Conference of 20 years ago — the effects of which have continued to be felt to the present day:

My favorite quote is Jack Ward Thomas’s memory of Clinton’s summary speech: “When it ended, I remember being overwhelmed with his eloquence but I can’t remember what the hell he said.”

6 thoughts on “Spotted Owls: The Clinton Plan Revisited”

  1. Here are a few brief comments on the article that I got over email from a couple of Oregon environmentalists:

    Jack Ward Thomas doesn’t tell the full story claiming there was no pressure from Clinton’s White House on the NW Forest Plan. The administration rejected all eight options developed by the team that Thomas led, and directed them to create “Option 9” to satisfy industry demand for one billion board feet in annual timber sales, which the president ultimately approved.

    Plus, no mention that 60,000 people came to Portland Waterfront Park for a Pro-Ancient Forest Rally and Concert. (THE largest political gathering in Oregon until Obama’s first run saw 70,000 at a rally.) Yet a 2000-person Pro-Timber Rally gets mentioned. Very weird that the Option 9 and 10 gambit gets erased.

  2. Adaptive management doesn’t seem to work well, in a litigious world. When wildfires like the Biscuit incinerate owl habitats, activists discount the damage, without even knowing the biology of the birds. When mortality in owl PACs is over 90%, you know that nest trees were destroyed. Ultimately, the owl (and goshawk) populations are totally dependent on the availability of nests systems within nesting habitats. Yes, new nests get built but, those are in places more at risk to bigger predators.

    • I think a good measure of the health of owl populations are, how many nesting territories are vacant. Since they are territorial, the best habitats are vigorously defended. Remember, that the owl’s nesting habitat includes a system of nests. It takes many years before last year’s nest is ready for use again. MESSY!!

      I also wonder if new pairs of owls find places to nest, or have their nests raided by predators, due to being too exposed. Since goshawks and owls share the same nesting habitat, it is often that a goshawk will find an owl’s nest. Management should be to “manicure” their nesting habitats, cutting and piling small trees for burning. The thicker stands in their foraging habitats should be “encouraged” to turn into nesting habitat, while establishing fuel breaks around these “future nest stands”.

      Yes, owls will adapt but, will they thrive as current old growth dies, rots and burns? The ESA should mandate beneficial projects for these birds.

  3. Mateusz Perkowski published this update on western Oregon spotted owls earlier today in the Salem Capital Press:

    Posted: Friday, April 05, 2013 10:54 AM

    “Judge tells feds to study owls before selling timber”

    Capital Press

    The U.S. Forest Service must study competition between threatened spotted owls and barred owls before proceeding with a timber project in an Oregon national forest.

    A federal judge has blocked logging on more than 2,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest, including about 450 acres of spotted owl habitat that would have been removed or downgraded.

    Two environmental groups — Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild — filed a legal complaint against the “Goose Project” last year. The Freres Lumber Co. and Seneca Sawmill Co. intervened as defendants in the case.

    U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has rejected most of the environmentalists’ arguments but agreed that several factors “raise a substantial question as to whether the Goose Project may significantly affect the environment.”

    The ruling notes that the Forest Service acknowledged uncertainties about the project’s effects, such as the role of habitat fragmentation has in the rivalry between spotted owls and barred owls.

    Barred owls are considered more aggressive and adaptable than spotted owls, allowing them to dominate resources.

    Aiken also agreed with environmentalists that reducing the size of a potential wilderness area, building a permanent road and logging in riparian areas are also “significant consequences.”

    “The court recognizes the deference afforded to an agency, and when considered individually, none of these significance factors might require an EIS,” she said. “However, when considered collectively, they do.”

    Scott Horngren, attorney for the sawmills, said he’s troubled by the implication that competition between the two owls points to the need for a more comprehensive review.
    “Arguably, this means every timber sale in the Northwest Forest Plan area has to have an EIS,” he said.

    Environmental groups could point to the ruling and argue that other projects must undergo an EIS, rather than a more concise environmental assessment, Horngren said. The Forest Service already looked at the barred owl issue in such an assessment and found there’s scant evidence that timber harvests cause the birds to compete either more or less aggressively, he said.

    The EIS will likely come to the same conclusions, but will delay the timber project by up to a year and use up agency resources, Horngren said. “That seems wasteful and unnecessary.”

    Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, called that a “disingenuous” characterization, because the government may propose an alternative that’s more palatable for environmental groups and the local community.

    “The EIS may facilitate something that is more agreeable than the EA,” he said. The group is concerned about barred owls because the spotted owl population hasn’t recovered despite habitat protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan, Ferris said. “We’re still seeing downward trends,” he said.

  4. We also might as well analyze the impacts of shooting barred owls, which could be a significant new food source for endangered goshawks. *smirk* Certainly, a barred owl cannot be more aggressive than a goshawk! Since the barred owl is even a little bit bigger than a spotted owl, the goshawk’s hunting advantages work better on bigger prey. Goshawks are absolutely fearless.

    I have to wonder if the people behind the project even considered the likely litigiousness liability of such an intensive project. Did they say, “Oh, let’s see if we can get by with just an EA”. Or, was it more like, “If the EA doesn’t fly, we’ll just have to do the EIS, anyway”?


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