While the federal government considers revamping the Northwest Forest Plan and uplisting the spotted owl from threatened to endangered, there was another development recently in the spotted owl saga.
Say what you will about the feds' plan to kill the competing barred owl, but it's at least an acknowledgement that the real threat to the spotted owl is its larger and more aggressive cousin, which over the last few decades has moved west into the spotted owl's territory. The spotted owls are dying off because they can't compete for food, and in some cases, the barred owls are even killing the spotted owls directly.
Last year two animal rights groups sued to stop the federal plan to kill the barred owls in sites in California, Oregon and Washington. That lawsuit was just rejected by a U.S. District Court judge.
Friends of Animals and Predator Defense, two animal rights groups, filed a complaint last year accusing the agency of violating the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate alternatives to lethal removal of barred owls.
They also claimed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s study is contrary to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, under which the U.S. and other countries agreed to protect migratory birds.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has rejected these arguments, finding that the agency wasn’t obligated to undertake other “recovery actions” for the spotted owl that didn’t call for removal of barred owls.
The agency took a sufficiently “hard look” at the study’s effects, including the possibility that it may disrupt an “equilibrium” between the two owl species in some areas, Aiken said.
The experiment also falls within an exception to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which permits birds to be killed for “scientific research or educational purposes,” she said.
Washington state officials recently confirmed what many people suspected: this is the worst drought in the state's modern history.
“We have never experienced a drought like this,” said Maia Bellon, director of the state Department of Ecology. “It is remarkably worse than the drought of 2005 or 2001... and there is no end in sight.”
The Methow Valley News put the misery in bullet points:
-Almost 99 percent of the state is classified as being in a “severe drought.”
-Eighty sturgeon, from 5 to 7 feet long — including breeding females — have been found dead along the Columbia River.
-Typically wet forests on the Olympic Peninsula are burning, with the largest fire on record in Olympic National Park this summer.
-Every county in the state is predicted to qualify for federal disaster relief.
-At least 30 irrigators have been ordered to shut their diversions.
And the wildfires, as we noted earlier this month, are already off to the races.
“Wildfire season started early and energetically,” said Mary Verner, deputy supervisor of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As of July 17, there had been 747 fires that burned almost 74,000 acres. This week brush fires near Quincy and Monroe have increased the total.
The 74,000 acres is more than twice the area burned by mid-July last year (not counting the Carlton Complex Fire, which had just started), said Verner.
Forests and Fish collaborators support DNR and the Governor's funding request for Adaptive Management
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WFPA supports extension of tax credit for biomass to produce renewable energy
Use of forest-derived biomass produces energy, and can help reduce the threat of wildfires by paying for the cost of thinning to improve forest health.
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Private landowners share the burden of preparing for and fighting wildfire.
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