The spotted owl in the context of, well, owls in general

The current issue (May 25th, 2017) of the New York Review of Books contains a review of two books on owls, penned by reviewer Robert O. Paxton (I didn’t know, BTW, that he was an “owlologist” – try saying that fast 25 times! – or an “owlophile”).  Anyhow, there wasn’t much on the spotted owl and the timber controversy of the U.S. Northwest therein.  But I thought I’d pass along what there was, FYI:

“Efforts to protect one species of North American owl became an issue in the 1992 presidential election. President George H.W. Bush warned that if environmentalists like vice-presidential candidate Al Gore got their way, “we’ll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American.” The owl in question was the spotted owl, a midsized forest owl of the Pacific Northwest that disappears when old-growth forest is cut. Efforts to preserve old-growth forest for the bird infuriated workers in the declining lumber industry. They sported bumper stickers that read “shoot an owl, save a logger.” The issue has now subsided, mostly because the loggers, having lost the “spotted owl war,” found other work or other homes.

“Today the few spotted owls that remain in the United States (they are nearly gone from Canada) have a new enemy. The closely related but more aggressive barred owl, abundant in the eastern United States, is expanding into the Pacific Northwest, where it pushes out the slightly smaller spotted owl. The US Forest Service has been discreetly culling barred owls in that region. Even so, the spotted owl could become the first North American owl to go extinct.”

24 thoughts on “The spotted owl in the context of, well, owls in general”

  1. We will never know if the number of owls is actually low or not. It was well documented in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s that there was never owl counts taken in wilderness lands. Why? That land was already locked up!

    • Howdy Rein. Can you please provide evidence to back up your statement that “It was well documented in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s that there was never owl counts taken in wilderness lands.” Figure since it was “well documented” it should be easy to share some of that documentation.

      Also, how does one “lock up” land? From time to time I enjoy recreating in Wilderness areas. Have I missed the lock? Or do I just unknowingly have the right key?

      • Appreciate your “tongue in cheek” comments. You must be a youngster in this issue. You can easily google these facts as well as I to supply you with them. I publish Oregon Fish & Wildlife Journal, we had a cover photo in the early 1990’s of foresters “calling in” owls in second growth forests. The research is all available through the Forest Service archives and other sources as well. They NEVER went into the lands that were already taken out of production (multiple use) to count owls. Locked up land? When land is “set aside” as Wilderness, or spotted owl habitat land, even if it’s privately owned, all activities cease.. Thus, locked up.

        • I’m 45 and have been working on these issues for the past 25 years. In fact, I met my wife during the campaign to save Warner Creek in 1995.

          So, I’ll take that as a big fat NO, that you won’t be providing any evidence to back up your claim “It was well documented in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s that there was never owl counts taken in wilderness lands.”

          Maybe it’s not as “well documented” as you claim.

          Also, really “all activities cease” in Wilderness or “spotted owl land.” You mean activities such as hiking, or camping, or hunting, or various natural processes?

          • This is argumentative which is a waste of time. The time you spend cleverly responding to my comments can be used to look up the facts you’re disputing. Activities cease, as in grazing, logging, etc… (you understand the concept of multiple-Use?) yes you may recreate. I don’t have time to do your research. Your original comments should have come after the fact..

            • Howdy Rein.

              So just for the record…despite the fact that YOU wrote: “It was well documented in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s that there was never owl counts taken in wilderness lands.”

              YOU refuse to provide any evidence to back up your claim. Perhaps that’s because your claim isn’t really a well-documented fact, but is more than likely made up, either entirely or partially.

              • Have you even looked for facts or do you somehow think it is my job to provide you with the last 30 years of well documented information. Why are you opposed to researching the issues you are commenting on? This is silly and I doubt you’ll get any more responses from me. Do your work before commenting in the future would be my advise. To continue to expect me to educate you is unrealistic and not happening. My original statement about spotted owl numbers is based on experience, history and facts… to dig out that research to attach to this comment is a bigger job for me because I have a job. It’s very simple for you to look this up and see for yourself which I expect you will believe more than if I tell you. Good luck to you!

                • Hi Cristy. You are the one who made the claim. I’m simply asking you for evidence to document the claim you made. I’m not at all opposed to researching this issue; however, when someone claims that something is a well-documented fact it seems that a good starting point might be to have that person provide some of the supposed “well documented” facts they claim.

                  Also, I’m a contributor and moderator on this blog, and have been for a long time. You seem to be new here. That’s great. But please don’t come in here, make some claims you apparently can’t back up, and then tell me what to do.

                  By the way, I did do some google research on this and did, in fact, find evidence that there were Spotted Owl Surveys in Wilderness areas of the Wenatchee National Forest, North Cascades National Park and Okanogan National Forest in 1989. So that directly contradicts with what you stated originally, which was “It was well documented in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s that there was never owl counts taken in wilderness lands.”

                • I have no dog in this fight, but this is a pretty embarrassing response.

                  Make a statement that you say has facts behind it, link to the facts. Don’t make others go look for it and hide behind “I’m not going to do the work for you” BS.

        • (1) Generally speaking, use of terms like “never” and “all” tend to be used by ideologues, not clear-thinking individuals.

          (2) One might surmise that spotted owls surveys occurred less often in wilderness because wilderness tends to be rock, ice, and high elevation forest types, while spotted owls tend to prefer lower elevation habitats.

          (3) Livestock grazing, fire suppression, and many forms of recreation are allowed in wilderness.

    • Rein

      I’m doing some documentation on the NSO for a future post on this site and just came across this for the Willamette NF: “Six sites located in the Three Sisters (2 sites) and Mount Washington (4 sites) Wilderness Areas within 2 km of the wilderness area boundary were surveyed on an irregular basis from 1989 through 1996. Since 1997, these sites have been surveyed annually … Thirty-five sites located in the Three Sisters and Mount Washington Wilderness Areas were surveyed irregularly from 1987 through 1999”
      See Page 18 here

  2. It has been well documented that a “show us the study” demand from Matthew means that your point is spot on (see endnote below).
    On a somewhat related note, I am of the opinion that the term “moderator,” at least as it applies to blogs and similar forums, does not mean what Sharon thinks it does.

    But I can’t provide any studies to support this statement.

    * Search “Can you please provide evidence [studies] to back up your statement” + “Matthew Koehler.”

    • Yes, Brain, clearly when someone make claims on this blog and then other readers and contributors of the blog ask for evidence or citation, and the person making the original claim can’t, or refuses to, provide any evidence….this clearly shows for sure that the person asking for the evidence or a citation is the one full of it. Seriously, people.

      • No, Matthew. You are wrong.
        Politely asking someone​to explain or support an assertion, in order to facilitate discussion, is one thing. That is what a blog moderator does.
        What you do is demand people prove assertions you disagree with by providing studies or evidence, and if they decline, then claim those people are “full of it.” That is what a passionate advocate does.
        Please don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with passionate advocacy. Insofar as that goes, you get high marks from me.
        But you claim to be a moderator here at NCFP.
        Please, quiet the passionate advocate. Become the moderator. You have the knowledge and skills. If you succeed, conversation here will be a lot more informative and interesting. And way more fun.

        • Hi Brain, Thanks for the advise. I am a moderator here on this blog, and I’m also a contributor. For the record, I bet I’ve approved over a 1,000 comments here over the years, including comments I don’t agree with, or even comments that may attack me. As Jon Haber said, “To make claims and refuse to provide evidence to support them is, well, Trumpesque.” And I agree with that. If you don’t, that’s fine too.

  3. To make claims and refuse to provide evidence to support them is, well, Trumpesque. (If I want to read unsupported opinions I can go to the comments following any article on the internet.)

    While the “Don’t shoot” article doesn’t really help answer these questions, it does raise one for me – what is a “contrarian forest scientist?” (I think that is a question for Norm, who apparently used the term.)

  4. When I read blogs and comments on a subject with a long history of science,facts and research, and I read something I haven’t heard of, it’s never been an option in my mind to fire back, Prove it! I’m laughing just reading that! I have always taken the personal responsibility to educate myself and look into that claim. If I cannot find supporting facts I would then ask for that person for documentation. I believe I should have used your method to your original claim about the number of owls declining. Because it is written in by a self proclaimed “owlologists” does not mean it is a fact.

    • Often, ‘experts’ trotted out by both sides have their own agendas. We see that quite often in this blog, as people try to apply one site-specific study to the whole of the Forest Service. Studies done on the NSO do NOT apply to CASPO or the Mexican Spotted Owls. We need to stop doing that when there are no definitive site-specific studies. Similarly, the mere presence of spotted owls does not mean very much, especially in burned areas. We’ve seen the courts shutdown this silly reasoning, and I am so very glad.

  5. I was a ranger for Olympic National Park for the summer seasons of 1983 & 1984. My bunkhouse mates were on the spotted owl census team. I went out with them a few nights, stumbling around the dark in an old growth forest. I’d call Olympic N.P. fairly pristine. We did find owls. Not sure where that data went….

  6. I was thinking that after 30 years of surveys and I am sure spending hundreds of millions of dollars we would have most of the data needed to manage our pubic lands. Where did all that data go….


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