FWS Decision: It seems to me that for the owl to be hurt, the BLM or the FS would have to propose, and actually do something on the ground with owl impacts. How likely is that in a Biden Administration?
Trump Opens Habitat of a Threatened Owl to Timber Harvesting
Going far beyond expectations, the Trump administration eliminated protection from more than three million acres of northern spotted owl habitat in the Pacific Northwest.
The plan, issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, grew out of a legal settlement with a lumber association that had sued the government in 2013 over 9.5 million acres that the agency designated as essential to the survival of the northern spotted owl. The federal protections restricted much of the land from timber harvesting, which companies claimed would lead to calamitous economic losses.
But rather than trim about 200,000 acres of critical habitat in Oregon, as the agency initially proposed in August, the new plan will eliminate protections from 3.4 million acres across Washington, California and Oregon. What is left will mostly be land that is protected for reasons beyond the spotted owl.
“These common-sense revisions ensure we are continuing to recover the northern spotted owl while being a good neighbor to rural communities within the critical habitat,” Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.
Wildlife biologists expressed shock at the decision.
“I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this,’” said Susan Jane Brown, a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, a conservation group that advocates on behalf of the northern spotted owl.
The Interior Department said it will eliminate from federal protection more than 3 million acres of land in California, Oregon and Washington vital to the northern spotted owl, a species considered endangered under federal law.
In a draft rule published Wednesday as much of the nation was glued to impeachment proceedings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of Interior, said it was excluding about 3.5 million acres of “critical habitat” established for the owls. Environmental groups warned that the move could spell the extinction of the species and immediately threatened lawsuits to block the action.
There’s a new Administration next week, whom we can imagine won’t want to “clearcut the last remaining fragments of old growth land.”
“Here in southern Oregon this is a death sentence for owls,” said George Sexton, conservation director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “This decision is intended to speed the clearcutting of the last remaining fragments of old-growth forests on Bureau of Land Management public lands.”
In the spirit of journalism analysis, I note that the Times story has a paragraph about the timber industry, and the Roll Call story has none. And yet, any projects proposed will be in a Biden administration or thereafter. I understand that writers can’t understand all the steps before a project is approved, but they could interview people who do.