Some folks posted this last night under comments but I thought it deserved its own post.
Henson said the Northwest Forest Plan, which cut logging by 90 percent on national forests in the 1990s, has done a good job of providing habitat for the spotted owl. But the owls’ numbers have continued to slide.
Henson said unless barred owls are brought under control, the spotted owl in coming decades might disappear from Washington’s northern Cascade Range and Oregon’s Coast Range, where the barred owl incursion has been greatest.
It has taken the federal government a long time to get to this point. The California Academy of Sciences killed some barred owls in spotted owl territory on the Klamath National Forest in Northern California in 2005, and the owner of some redwood timberlands in Northern California regularly kills barred owls to protect spotted owls.
The idea of killing one type of owl to protect another underscores a fragile balance of nature that biologists have struggled with for years.
Between 2000 and 2006, wildlife officials captured and removed more than 40 golden eagles from the Channel Islands off Southern California to protect the island fox. They also hired a company to kill 5,000 feral pigs on Santa Cruz in a controversial program to restore the island’s ecosystem.
In Oregon, officials have used lethal injections to kill selected California sea lions that feast on protected salmon in the Columbia River. And in Yosemite National Park, saving bighorn sheep has meant hunting protected mountain lions.
The northern spotted owl is an icon of bitter disputes between the timber industry and environmentalists over the use of Northwest forests. Because of its dwindling numbers, the little bird was listed as a threatened species in 1990, which resulted in logging cutbacks and lawsuits.
Barred owls are bigger, more aggressive and less picky about food. They started working their way across the Great Plains in the early 1900s, and by 1959 were in British Columbia. Barred owls now cover the spotted owl’s range, in some places outnumbering them as much as 5-to-1.
Oh.. the “fragile balance of nature”.. it turns out it’s really the nonexistent balance of nature, as per Botkin. It’s OK to say “we like animal x more than y, so we are going to kill y to get more x.” Just don’t say it’s anything about what Nature wants. P.S. evolution and hybridization are also “natural” processes, albeit perhaps not “ecological” processes? I can’t keep up with what’s in and out of “ecology.”