Old Growth Up, Spotted Owl Numbers Down
Article Date: 2005-04-20 Source: http://www.enn.com
By Jeff Barnard
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. - Ten years after the Northwest Forest Plan sharply reduced logging on national forests in the region, the amount of old growth forest is up but northern spotted owl populations are down and with no clear reason why, scientists reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the plan has fallen far short of fulfilling its promise of a steady
supply of timber or replacing lost timber jobs with new opportunities in the
small towns near federal forest land, said Thomas Quigley, director of the U.S.
Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland.
"Many of the impacts were different than predicted," said Quigley.
The Northwest Forest Plan was adopted by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land
Management under the Clinton administration in 1994 to lift federal court
injunctions that had stopped logging in habitat for the northern spotted owl on
It cut logging by more than 80 percent to increase the amount of old growth
forest habitat for the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, a
threatened bird that lives and eats on the ocean but nests in old trees along
the coast. It also called for improving the health of watersheds to help salmon
and other fish.
The plan covers 24 million acres on 19 national forests and seven BLM districts
in western Washington, Oregon and Northern California defined by the range of
the northern spotted owl.
By embracing the new concept of ecosystem management, the plan marked a major
change in federal management of natural resources. The government has spent $50
million to monitor how the plan has affected watersheds, wildlife, timber
supply, and other issues.
After declining significantly in the 1970s and 1980s, the amount of medium-aged
to older forests increased 606,000 acres to a total of 7.9 million acres, 34
percent of the overall forest and right on target for the plan, said Melinda
Moeur, Forest Service program leader for old growth monitoring.
Only 12 percent of that is considered classic old growth, dominated by huge
trees forming a multistoried canopy. Clearcutting removed 17,300 acres, while
101,500 acres were consumed by fire.
Scientists estimate there are about 1,200 pairs in Washington, 2,000 to 3,000
pairs in Oregon and the same in Northern California, for a total of about 8,000
The plan expected to see an average annual decline in owl numbers of 3.1 percent
until enough habitat grew up to stabilize populations, but the actual decline
has been sharper in some areas and less in others.
Four study areas in Washington, for example, saw an average 7.1 percent annual
decline, while two study areas in southwestern Oregon saw a slight increase.
Populations have fared slightly better on lands covered by the Northwest Forest
Plan than on state or private lands, said Joe Lint, a BLM wildlife biologist.
Scientists have no clear picture of what is causing the declines, but factors
include invasion of spotted owl habitat by the barred owl, an aggressive cousin
from Canada that often drives them off; habitat lost to past logging and
wildfire; climate changes; and insect infestations, said Lint.
Eric Forsman, a Forest Service spotted owl biologist, said even killing off
barred owls was unlikely to help the spotted owl, because the territory is so
large and there is nothing to stop new barred owls from migrating in from
It is not yet clear whether owl habitat is being maintained by the plan, despite
the increase in old growth forest acreage, but monitoring revealed no evidence
to justify departing from the current strategy of maintaining large blocks of
habitat across the region, Lint added.
Counts of marbled murrelets on the ocean show populations remained steady the
past few years at about 22,000 off Washington, Oregon and Northern California,
said Matt Huff, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It is not clear yet whether the plan is succeeding in maintaining or restoring
nesting habitat for the bird, which lays a single egg on a mossy branch in a
large tree along the coast, he added.
Susan Charnley, a Forest Service environmental anthropologist, said the 421
million board feet of timber the plan has been producing on average annually
amounts to just 54 percent of the amount expected under the plan.
However, only 400 of the 11,000 timber jobs lost since 1994 can be blamed
directly on less federal timber. The rest were caused by restructuring in the
timber industry, she said.
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://www.enn.com and placed here for comment.
OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.
2010-12-17 - Scientists: Obama plan for spotted owl not enough by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2009-12-09 - Barred owls could get the boot (or a bullet) to save spotted owls by Matthew Preusch - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2009-07-07 - Study: No increased fire threat in owl habitat by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2008-09-15 - Judge blocks Oregon logging project by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2008-08-04 - Scientists say spotted owl plan not good enough by Jeff Barnard - Ashland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2008-06-03 - New Threats to the Spotted Owl Prompt Legal Notice on the Elliott State Forest by Noah Greenwald - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-10-02 - Forest Service withdraws plan to log owl habitat burned in 2006 by Jeff Barnard - Bend, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-08-14 - Government Spotted Owl Plan Fails Peer Review by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-06-12 - Spotted Owl Old Growth Habitat Protections Reduced - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-04-28 - U.S. proposes killing owls to save another - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-03-16 - Spotted owl ruling halts local logging by Paul Fattig - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2007-02-16 - Appeals court says spotted owl protection violated by William McCall - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2006-03-02 - Scientists Urge Experiments on Barred Owls by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2005-08-13 - With rivals dead, will spotted owls reclaim territory? by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2004-11-18 - Spotted owl remains a threatened species, government says by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2004-11-16 - Timber industry expects no change for northern spotted owl by Jeff Barnard - Grants Pass, Oregon, U.S.A.
2004-08-06 - Court holds government to higher standard for logging in owl habitat by Jeff Barnard - San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
2004-06-22 - New threats imperil spotted owl - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
2004-06-01 - Experts ponder latest menace to the spotted owl - Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
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