The Campaign Spot

Save the Owls! Shoot the Owls! Save the Owls and Shoot the Owls!

A big, busy Morning Jolt to close out the week, featuring this easily overlooked environmental story:

Save the Owls! Shoot the Owls! Save the Owls and Shoot the Owls!

Remember the spotted owl?

That little critter had a big impact on U.S. environmental law in the Pacific Northwest:

. . . In the historical context of looking back sixteen years, it seems obvious that the victors in the spotted owl war were those environmentalists who turned a seemingly absurd proposal into a national cause, a matter of presidential debate and finally a fait accompli. By the time the sawdust cleared, national forest harvesting west of the Cascades and the Sierra had declined by more than 80 percent—and more than 90 percent in key forests near the urbanized Puget Sound basin.

By the recent accounting of the Associated Press, nearly 7 million acres, or 28 percent of the national forest in western Washington, Oregon and northern California, were protected from logging by the Clinton administration’s 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. In addition, 4.6 million acres were open to logging, and of that, only 1.1 million acres were classified as old growth.

The impact on jobs and the economy were, if not catastrophic, serious:

Between 1988 and 1998, the number of lumber and plywood mills in Oregon declined by nearly half, from 252 to 127. Twenty mills closed in Douglas County alone, according to timber consultant Paul Ehinger of Eugene. Some 2,800 jobs in the wood-products industry in Douglas County vanished within two years of the owl being listed.

More than half of the 60,000 Oregon workers who held jobs in the wood-products industry at the beginning of the 1990s no longer had them by 1998, according to a report published in the Journal of Forestry in 2003.

By the end of the decade, nearly half of those who left the timber industry disappeared from state employment records. The missing workers were likely either retired, unemployed or living in another state.

Jim Geisinger, the (Douglas Timber Operators) executive director from 1976 to 1981 and now the executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers, said that in the early ’80s, the Umpqua National Forest sold 360 million board feet a year.

“Today, Umpqua National Forest is selling only about 10 percent of that,” he said.

A study by economists from the Portland-based consulting firm ECONorthwest, Oregon State University and the Oregon Employment Department tracked 18,000 former timber workers between 1990 and 1998 who found another job in Oregon. Nearly half found work in the service and retail sectors. One-third were employed in the manufacturing and construction industries.

It turns out that despite all the regulations, the population of the spotted owl kept declining, year by year, even after all the new restrictions and regulations on the timber industry.

Yesterday, Phil Kerpen called my attention to this development:

An experiment to see if killing invasive barred owls will help the threatened northern spotted owl reverse its decline toward extinction is underway in the forests of Northern California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday that specially trained biologists have shot 26 barred owls in a study area on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation northeast of Arcata, Calif.

They plan to remove as many as 118 barred owls from the area, keeping the 55 known barred owl nesting sites open over the next five years to see if spotted owls increase, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Robin Bown. Contractors go to an area that barred owls are known to be in, play a digital caller to attract them, and shoot the birds with a shotgun.

The service is spending $3.5 million over six years to remove 3,600 barred owls from sites in Oregon, Washington and California.

That terminology is a bit Orwellian, isn’t it? We “removed” the owls by tracking them, attracting them, and then blasting them full of birdshot until they were dead. Remember that next time the Fish and Wildlife Service ask you to “remove” your trash.

So the environmentalists’ plan to save the owlsis to shoot other owls.

Now, come on. We’re conservatives. We know that this isn’t a real solution. Put aside the concerns that this constitutes big government meddling in Charles Darwin’s biological free market.

This is a territorial dispute between two species, and one is aggressive and invasive. The only thing that stops a barred owl . . . with a gun . . . is a spotted owl with a gun. It’s time to arm the spotted owls and enact a “stand your ground” law that guarantees the spotted owl’s right to use deadly force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.

You will get the spotted owls’ guns when you take them . . . from their cold, dead talons.

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