Don Baccus dhogaza at
Tue Sep 7 20:20:21 EST 1999

In article <37CAC84F.1FACA150 at>,
Joseph Zorzin  <redoak at> wrote:
>Larry Caldwell wrote:
>> In article <01bef25a$039557d0$03f47880 at bob>, rtaylor at writes:
>> > I suggest that you may be a little preoccupied with mycorrhizal fungi.  I
>> > don't question their ecological importance, and I don't question their
>> > neglect by the F.S. and the ecological research community.  But to suggest
>> > that the spotted owl was chosen as an indicator species because it
>> > disperses fungal spores strains credulity.  It was chosen because it was
>> > thought to be an old-growth specialist.  The endangered species act can be
>> > used to protect animals.  It cannot be used to protect seral stages.
>> Yes, the NSO was chosen as an indicator species because it is a the top
>> of the food chain.
>Wait a second- chosen as an indicator species? As for old growth as Bob Taylor
>suggests? Why is a bird needed as an indicator of old growth? Old growth is old
>growth- without or without any animal species. You don't need a bird to be an
>indicator species for old growth. The bird was chosen because IT was endangered.

Actually, there are at least a couple of threads buried in this
statement :)

Larry and Bob are right about why the NSO was chosen as an indicator
species (and as Larry states, the "indicator species" notion isn't
as popular as it once was).  NSO is an old-growth specialist in
SOME western coniferous forests, so the choice wasn't entirely

The bird was singled out by the USFS long before it was listed.

>>  However, indicator species are out of favor now,
>> which is why the USFS has to survey so many sensitive species.
>I thought the idea is to protect rare species whether or not they are an
>indicator species- regardless of their niche. What does being an indicator
>species have to do with anything?

Leaving biology behind for a moment, the USFS has to survey for so
many sensitive species because they stated they would in the Northwest
Forest Plan, and it was this plan that caused the Court to lift
the injunction granted years ago.  That lifting and the settlement
of the suit was accompanied by words from the judge warning that
failure to follow the Plan would lead to the Court's getting 
involved again.

The USFS didn't follow the plan in this somewhat important
particular, made no attempt to even after the suit was filed,
and the judge did pretty much what judge's do in such cases.

Though I have very little experience with the legal system
(one traffic ticket in the past two decades), my understanding
is that when judges say things more or less like "if you screw
up and end up back in my court, bad things will happen" that
it is wise to listen up and get your act together.

The importance of the surveying to the Plan's pretty simple.
The Plan is designed to provide for the conservation of a
wide suite of species, not just the NSO.  It really doesn't
have anything to do with the current popularity or unpopularity
of the indicator species concept, but rather with the desire
to avoid lawsuits over species-by-species listings under the
ESA.  Both sides in the suit, i.e. the government and the
conservationist organizations that were plaintiffs (I was
on the board of one of the two lead plaintiffs at the time),
agreed that a comprehensive plan made a lot more sense than
blow-by-blow lawsuits over the next N decades or whatever.

The timber industry filed against the Plan, our side balanced
the teeter-totter so to speak by filing against it on the
other side, the Judge decided the Plan BARELY met the 
requirements of the law and ended the original suit.

That BARELY met bit was the reason he admonished the USFS
to follow it and to not repeat their historical tendency
to kinda forget to follow their own plans, national laws,

I think this recent injunction took the USFS by surprise,
but for the life of me I can't imagine why.

- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at>
  Nature photos, on-line guides, at

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