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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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Old growth forest preservation has climate benefits

Healthy old-growth forests are important carbon sinks.

Research shows logging cuts in Pacific Northwest increase carbon sequestration

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Researchers at Oregon State University and the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station have used satellite sensing and other high-tech mapping tools to show that a 1993 plan to preserve old-growth forest habitat had a powerful and unintended consequence – increased carbon sequestration on public lands.

When forest harvest levels fell 82 percent on public forest lands in the years after passage of this act, those lands  became a significant carbon “sink” for the first time in decades, absorbing much more carbon from the atmosphere than they released. At the same time, private forest lands became close to carbon neutral. Continue reading

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