Spotted Owls: What Each NF Supports (And What They Cost Taxpayers)

This blog has featured a number of posts regarding Spotted Owls for the past 2+ years:

On Friday the AFRC Newsletter was distributed by email and featured a short editorial regarding spotted owls by Ross Mickey of the American Forests Resource Council (AFRC):

Click to access AFRC_Newsletter_5-24-13.pdf

Although Ross is supporting an idea called the Social Services Support Zone (yup,aka “SSSZ”), it is some of his comments regarding spotted owls — and their enormous economic cost to US citizens — that are most chilling. If true, of course. Most of the economic information is given in tables that I couldn’t figure out how to post, so you’ll have to use the PDF link to see them. They cover every NF with designated spotted owl “habitat,” and what that habitat costs in terms of foregone sales and incomes to local citizens of counties containing these lands.

I’ve reprinted the text from Mickey’s editorial below (yes, I know either he or Spellcheck misspelled “principles”), but I recommend visiting the tables he has put together in relation to the economic cost of these animals. Also, some of you may be more interested in the SSSZ concept in relation to NSOs and NGO’s, so there’s that, too.


Social Services Support Zones

The northern spotted owl is the driving force behind the collapse of dozens of timber dependent rural communities across the northwest, devastating local governments and drastically reducing the basic social services these governments can provide. Despite setting aside millions of acres for the owl, its numbers continue to decline because it is being overtaken by its larger cousin, the barred owl, by a ratio of 4 to 1. Without a massive effort to reduce the barred owl population (which the public will not allow), the spotted owl population will continue to decline no matter how many acres are dedicated to it.

The FWS has dictated that any area that spotted owls have used in the last 25 years need to be protected even if spotted owls have not used them for decades. They also dictate that areas that might support spotted owls need to be protected even though no spotted owl has ever used them. These are called “predicted” owl sites. The FWS estimates there are about 3,800 “known” sites and an undisclosed number of “predicted” sites. Most of these sit es are not being used by the spotted owl because they are infested with barred owls. Each one of these vacant protected areas contain billions of dollars worth of timber that could be dedicated to supporting local communities rather than barred owls.

[First Table] Below is the estimated total volume and value of spotted owl sites listed by each national forest.

[Second Table] The table below shows the annual volume and value production of these owls sites if they were managed under the principals [sic] of long-term sustained yield.

The Willamette for example, has 618 known sites and 124 predicated sites where spotted owls have never been known to exist. Of these 124 predicted sites, 46 are outside of Congressionally withdrawn areas. If these 46 predicted sites were classified as Social Services Support Zones (SSSZ’s) for the purpose of supporting local governments, $2,187,202,848 ( yes, that’s 2 billion!!) could be generated from the first harvest and provide a long term sustainable income of $46,487,524 per year forever.

Every national forest and BLM District is protecting predicted owl sites. I believe that protecting our rural communities is far more important than protecting virtual, computer generated predicted owl sites, and we should dedicate these lands to them the same way the FWS is dedicating them to only support barred owls.

/Ross Mickey

5 thoughts on “Spotted Owls: What Each NF Supports (And What They Cost Taxpayers)”

  1. And then, there are always those protected areas that die in wildfires that still retain protections for damaged habitats. Do we need to protect habitats that cannot support endangered species any longer? I saw several of those within the Biscuit Fire. Protected snag patches for birds that don’t use them.

  2. “Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) sponsored an amendment that was added to the House bill authorizing the Forest Service to use designation by description and designation by prescription for traditional timber sales. This should provide meaningful cost savings in sale layout and administration.”

    Great! Then we can eliminate the use of temporary Forest Service timber workers, altogether! Of course, someone will need to inspect and verify all that work. Of course, that work would be paid for with logs, further reducing the return of money generated by timber projects.

    I find it odd that a Democrat would want to allow timber companies to select the trees they want to cut.

  3. False premise:
    “The northern spotted owl is the driving force behind the collapse of dozens of timber dependent rural communities across the northwest…”

    Leading to a false dichotomy:
    “Protecting our rural communities is far more important than protecting … predicted owl sites…”

  4. Kevin, Re the “false premise” – are you maintaining that management for the owl has had no significant impact on the economies of rural communities in the northwest? Would you care to expand on your assertion, being a bit more precise as to what exactly you meant to say?

  5. Sure. There are many factors creating economic challenges for forest -related rural communities in the Pacific Northwest. Here are some examples..,

    – Rural communities across the US and even worldwide are experiencing economic decline for a variety of general reasons, due to common factors which impact rural communities in the Northwest much the same.
    – Mechanization in the woods and automation in the mills has greatly reduced the amount of labor per board foot of harvest.
    – Consolidation in the timber industry – just like nearly every other industry – means production and management are more centralized.
    – Cyclical markets interacting with the factors above have acted to suppress wage growth, so, like most other craft wages in the US economy, wood products wages have not kept up with the cost of living.
    – Employment in extraction communities typically tends to externalize various costs into those industries, such as disability and seasonal employment variations, costs which such communities can be hard-pressed to shoulder.
    – Tax exemptions to the timber industry have reduced regional government incomes compared to historic levels (at least in Oregon).
    – Turning scenic resources into harvest patch works, along with locked gates on public lands reduces opportunities for community income from tourism.
    – Even in the specific area of harvest reduction for ESA habitat protection, it is not just the owl. A variety of forest-dependent species are in decline, a few of which are also listed with critical habitat defined.

    Habitat protection to attempt to preserve the spotted owl is just one of the pieces in a big, complex puzzle.

    To the extent we care deeply about rural prosperity in Northwest rural forest communities, I hope we will take all the realistic factors into account, working together patiently to do so, so as to build real long term solutions.


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