07.30.2013 0

The spotted owl’s Who: We won’t get fooled again

By Rick Manning

The Northern Spotted Owl is back in the news, as the U.S. government is moving forward with plans to kill its larger cousin the Barred Owl to help save it from possible extinction.

But why should we care about this news that the biggest threat to the Northern Spotted Owl’s survival is not logging, but instead, is the invasion of its stronger, more adaptable cousin?

The case of the spotted owl should force any thinking person to ask the question, “If the environmental lobby could be so wrong on the Northern Spotted Owl with devastating consequences to local economies, could they also be wrong about their war on available energy production like coal and hydraulic fracturing?”

Starting in the 1980s, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups turned a small owl found in the timberlands of the northwestern United States into a fundraising star.  Saving the spotted owl became the cause of the moment, and the greens rejoiced when the federal government dramatically curtailed logging throughout the region.  The bird had been presumed “saved”, and it did not matter that sawmills and the towns that grew up around them became virtual ghost towns.

Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke with the former president of the Northwest Forestry Association, Jim Geisinger about the broken promise of the Clinton Administration’s Northwest Forest Plan which pledged a balanced approach between logging and Northern Spotted Owl protection efforts.

“The net effect has been about a 90 percent reduction in our federal timber supply. And when you take almost four billion board feet off the market, the economic effects on rural communities is just inescapable.”

Geisinger continued to explain, “It’s interesting that in spite of everything that’s happened to our industry, we’re still the second-biggest industry in the state [of Oregon], behind high tech. But with that being said, our industry is not what it used to be. Hundreds of mills closed, and tens of thousands of people lost their jobs, and those jobs haven’t been replaced.”

Back in the 1990’s, environmentalists argued that the Northern Spotted Owl could only exist in “old growth forests,”  yet now they are forced to admit that the subspecies can live in young forests as is witnessed in California.

Over the years, in spite of various forestry plans designed to save the spotted owl, the bird continues on a precipitous decline, and some question whether the challenges faced by the owl was related to the presence of old growth forests at all?

In fact, research conducted on Green Diamond Company’s timberland in coastal northern California indicated that this theory was untrue. The species not only survived, but also often flourish on commercial timberlands in this region. In fact, Green Diamond’s timberland proved to be one of the most populous spotted owl areas in the Northwest. Since Green Diamond’s owl research began in 1990, they have identified over 1,700 adult and juvenile spotted owls on their property alone.  This is quite a powerful repudiation of the theory that timbering and the Northern Spotted Owl cannot co-exist.

The actions taken by Green Diamond have been so successful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded their timber operations the first ever Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the spotted owl.

California Forestry Association President David Bischel sums up the situation saying, “Ironically, some of the most robust populations of Northern Spotted Owls occupy sustainably managed private forests of Northern California.”

Bischel’s statement is startling in its simplicity, and the massive implications are difficult to miss.

If the Northern Spotted Owl thrives in managed private forests, and yet it continues to decline on federal lands where timbering has been outlawed to save the species, one can logically conclude that the owl would be better off in habitat where sustainable forest management is practiced.

Twenty years later, tens of thousands of good paying jobs have been destroyed, thousands of lives have been ruined, communities shuttered, and it turns out that the entire habitat based premise of the species recovery plan was wrong.

Now, the same characters are engaged in a monumental war on our nation’s real energy resources.  They are evangelic in their attempts to destroy the use of coal, and they are equally fervent against the Keystone XL pipeline as well as the use of hydraulic fracturing to develop shale oil resources.

They claim that the climate is warming and that everyone who is anyone agrees.  Of course, this claim ignores prominent Russian scientists who claim that our world is on the verge of a prolonged cooling period.

They ignore the inconvenient fact that their global warming models have been absurdly wrong as the average global temperatures have been stable for the past fifteen years.

Even those who set off the initial climate alarm have been forced to come to terms with this reality, as James Lovelock, the godfather of the global warming movement who previously warned that billions would die before the end of this century admitted, “The problem is that we don’t know what the climate is doing.  We thought we knew 20 years ago.  That led to some alarmist books — mine included — because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.”

When you compound the growing doubts about the premise that the planet is warming with the even more tenuous theory that man-made carbon dioxide is the culprit in causing the “warming,” you have a very thin reed to stand on.

Yet that is exactly the rationale that the EPA and the environmentalists pin their entire anti-carbon regulatory assault on American industry on.

Twenty years ago, the environmentalists were going to save the Northern Spotted Owl and with the same certainty that they possess today, they convinced the federal government to effectively wipe out timbering in federally controlled forests in the northwest.  Now, we know that the bird thrives on timbered land, while it is struggling in non-managed forests.

The Northern Spotted Owl decisions cost tens of thousands of jobs, a drop in the bucket when compared to the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are likely to be lost should the EPA succeed in implementing their full global warming agenda.

As my father used to tell me, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government.  You can follow Rick on twitter @rmanning957.

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