Spotted owls need more forest cover, not less

Published: Friday, August 10, 2012, 6:00 AM

In an Aug. 3 retort to a scientific report proposing to heavily thin federal forests to save spotted owls, “Benefit of thinning for owls is not so clear-cut,” the authors offer another timber-thinning plan as an alternative, one that recommends a 44 percent increase in federal logging. As a forest consultant for 35 years, I find these dueling “scientific” reports, both suggesting that more federal logging will save the spotted owl, to be disturbingly biased.

We aren’t losing an indicator species like the spotted owl because the federal forests aren’t being logged enough. We are losing the owl — along with other vital publicly owned forest resources such as cold, clean water and salmon — because the vast intermingled corporate forest is being logged too much and too heavily.

Check Google Earth for a nearby forest location and look at the fragmented, even butchered, landscape. It doesn’t take a lot of science to realize how little continuous and intact forest cover is left for spotted owls.

The scientifically prestigious 1993 Forest Ecosystem Management assessment, the basis for the Northwest Forest Plan, clearly states, “Non-federal lands are an integral part of any strategy that seeks to address the overall landscape as an ecosystem. This is particularly important for threatened and endangered species.”

Nevertheless, the glaring need to address non-federal land, particularly corporate forest liquidation, was conveniently left out of President Bill Clinton’s forest “solution” (the Northwest Forest Plan) along with other political taboos like curbing rampant log exports.

In 2011, two-thirds of the region’s logging was on industrial lands, with almost all acres harshly clear-cut. So-called “scientific” solutions for endangered forest species that don’t address this huge deficiency shouldn’t be taken very seriously.

Roy Keene
Keene is a forestry consultant.