The New York Times: "The Owl and the Forest"
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL
The spotted owl, once famously referred to by the first President Bush as “that little furry-feathery guy,” was not exactly a popular little guy among angry timber workers in the Pacific Northwest. Listed as an endangered species in 1990, the owl triggered a series of court cases that halted logging in millions of acres of old-growth forests and led President Clinton to put those acres permanently off limits. For a bird that few people have ever actually seen, the spotted owl has done as much as any other creature to save the American landscape.
Now, says The Oregonian, the owl may be facing a threat graver than any chain saw: another owl, known as the barred owl. Nobody is quite sure whether barred owls kill spotted owls, force them away from nests or put them under such stress that they cannot reproduce. But ever since barred owls arrived in force in spotted owl country, the number of spotted owls appears to have declined.
The timber industry and the Bush administration are now trying to use the spotted owl’s new troubles to reverse more than a decade of sound environmental policy. Industry sees no reason why it cannot cut the trees where the spotted owl used to live. The Bush administration — overriding, once again, the advice of its scientists — is trying to shrink the land set aside for the owl’s recovery to free up more of the forest for logging.
Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act does not allow giving up on the spotted owl. Moreover, in his landmark decision protecting the owl, Judge William Dwyer noted that the issue was not so much the owl as the survival of the irreplaceable forest where it lived. And that remains the issue now.