The spotted owl was listed as an endangered species in 1990 after Oregon environmentalists declared it was dying out due to environmental damage caused by logging. The listing sharply curtailed harvests on federal forests. That put more logging pressure on Oregon’s limited state forests, caused mills to shut down all across the state and cut the state’s total harvest in half. In 1988, Oregon loggers cut 4.9 billion board feet of timber on federal land. The 2009 federal harvest was 240 million board feet.
So for all this sacrifice, loss of jobs and economic downturn, what happened to the spotted owl? It continued to die out at the same rate. About 2.9% a year. 20 years later, we know it was not the logging that was the cause of the decline.
The Oregonian Nothing’s worked. Not the clamp on federal timber sales that hammered Oregon’s mill towns. Not the lawsuits or the listing as an endangered species. The belated work to retain and restore its favored old-growth habitat will take decades to unfold. Twenty plus years of trying to save the northern spotted owl and it’s still slipping away.
So what was the cause? Nature. All on its own. Another species of owl, the barred owl, bigger and more aggressive is taking the spotted owls place, even breeding with the spotted females. From east of the Rockies, barred owls are more aggressive than spotted owls and less finicky, eating everything from rodents to crayfish to snails. Those traits help them thrive in a smaller range, quickly build their populations and win the competition for territory and food. Spotted owls prefer old-growth to nest in and flying squirrels to eat. Natural selection was at work. The logging was shut down for no good reeason.
Now environmentalists are suggesting that Barred Owls should be shot en masse to save the Spotted owl from extinction. But hang on. Isn’t that interfering with nature? I say to hell with the spotted and the barred owl. Let’s just shoot the damn environmentalists and problem solved. Either that or sue them for the billions of dollars and the lost jobs and businesses over the last 20 years. Irresponsible damn fools.