Timber Sale Threatens Owls' Habitat
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truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sun Dec 10 01:02:50 EST 2000
>From The Oregonian, Dec. 4, 2000, p A1
Proposed timber sale threatens owls' habitat
At least one pair of the endagnered northern spotted owls is nesting in
the old-growth trees targeted for harvest
By MICHAEL MILSTEIN, The Oregonian
For the first time since the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan set aside
millions of acres of federal forests for wildlife while opening other
acreage to logging, a federal agency has proposed a timber sale that
could harvest old-growth trees where northern spotted owls nest.
The timber sale in the Cedar Creek drainage northwest of Roseburg
would fulfill the ultimate compromise of the Northwest Forest Plan:
cutting ofrests with scatteed old-growth trees and threatened spotted
owls in exchange for protecitng other timber over the long term.
Forest advocates contend it also illustrates a serious shortcoming
of the plan President Clinton orchestrated to support wildlife and the
"It allows continued cutting of old growth when the other land set
aside for owls still has not recovered from past logging," said Francis
Eatherington of Umpqua Watersheds, a forest protection group in Roseberg.
The problem is that land managers have come up short in providing
timber promised by the Northwest Forest Plan.
Until now, federal foresters have avoided logging where threatened
or endangered species still reside on so-called "matrix lands" - the
swaths opened to logging under the expansive plan. But as other options
have run out, they finally are turning to those lands to fulfill their
mandate of supplying commercial timber.
"As you get less and less flexibility with where you can go, this is
going to occur," said Alan Wood, a forester in the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management's state office. "Eventually it's going to have to come up, and
there's no doubt it would be controversial."
A new BLM plan for the Cedar Creek watershed, a tributary of the
South Fork of the Coos River, proposes clearcutting of 189 acres and
thinning of 906 acres of federal land. The acreage lies on matrix land
open to logging under the Northwest Forest Plan and is surrounded by
commercial Weyerhaeuser timberland that covers the bulk of the watershed.
The plan is subject to public comment until Dec. 11.
At least one pair - and as many as three pairs - of northern spotted
owls nest within the acreage proposed for logging, according to BLM
officials. Neither the Endangered Species Act, which protects spotted
owls, nor the Northwest Forest Plan allows cutting during summer months
when spotted owls actively use their nests, so no trees would be cut
while spotted owls are raising young in them.
But such trees could be cut after the nesting season and would be
unavailable to owls in future years, when the birds often return to
familiar trees or stands.
"We're not going to cut a tree that has an active nest in it," said
Alan Hoffmeister, a spokesman for the BLM's COos Bay District, which has
proposed the timber sale. "Theoretically that tree could be cut down
later, but the birds would be gone."
The Northwest Forest plan had at first protected such nests by
establishing protected 100-acre "cores" around known spotted nesting
trees - even on matrix lands otherwise open to cutting. But some owls
have since moved out of those protected cores and nested in forests
slated for logging in timber sales such as the one on Cedar Creek.
Other owl nests were not known when the Northwest Forest Plan was
drawn up and were never protected.
Such owls would not receive any extra refuge now, although BLM
officials still must consult with the U.S> Fish and Wildlife Service
before logging in owl habitat, Wood said.
BLM and U.S. Forest Service officials and inudstry groups could not
recall an instance since the spotted owl was listed as a threatened
species in 1990 in which they have knowingly logged trees where spotted
"If it is an active nest site, that would be truly unique to have a
timber sale there," said Chris West of the American Forest Resource
Council in Portland. "But we know that ecosystems are dynamic and
constantly changing and that there is othe rhabitat for wildlife to use."
Past logging in the Cedar Creek drainage already has left owls there
with less timber than they typically need. By allowing continued logging
on such matrix lands, the Northwest Forest Plan effectively rules them
out as long-term spotted owl habitat, predicting that othe rlands
protected under the plan will be enough to support recovery of the
declining species in coming decades.
Although the BLM's Cedar Creek logging might be consistent with the
Northwest Forest Plan, that doesn't make it right, Eatherington said. The
agency could easily adjust its plans to avoid owl nest sites, she said,
but is instead trying to harvest additional timber in an area dominated
by heavily logged private lands.
"They're being really insensitive by going directly after owl
nests," she said.
West said it is impossible to know how the owls will respond. If the
timber sale goes forward, he encouraged research to find out what happens
to the birds.
"The only way we'll solve these debates is to take the opportunity
to study decisions like this and see what effects they have," he said.
Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
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