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Biodiversity: Northern spotted owl gets more protection

Northern spotted owl. Photo courtesy USFS.

Latest critical habitat designation reverses politically tainted Bush-era plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nearly four years after President Barack Obama took office, federal agencies are still trying to undo some of the environmental mischief from the Bush era. Last week, for example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated more than 9 million acres of critical habitat for threatened northern spotted owls.

The designation, spread across federal lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, replaces a 2008 designation by the Bush administration that ignored years of scientific evidence showing that spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest needed more, not less, old-growth forest habitat protection.

The Bush-era critical habitat designation was based on a recovery plan for the owl that was widely criticized by the scientific community. Congressional hearings later showed that the plan was shaped by political interference designed to undermine the protective measures of the Northwest Forest Plan.

Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, challenged the 2008 plan, resulting in last week’s designation, which is a substantial increase from both previous designations. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Invasive barred owls displacing endangered native northern spotted owls in Pacific Northwest forests

Barred owl. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans experimental removal of barred owls

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Invasive barred owls are increasingly taking up residence in northwestern forests at the expense of native — and endangered — norther spotted owls, according to a research project conducted jointly by the Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The three-year study shows that the barred owls are outcompeting spotted owls for critical resources such as space, habitat, and food, according to the study released last week by Oregon State University.

“Interactions between invasive and native species can be multifaceted and complex, with the stakes being even higher when the native species is already threatened with extinction,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Careful scientific observation and analysis can tease out the critical areas of conflict or competition, the first step in finding solutions.” Continue reading

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