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Regional Interests

Saving endangered spotted owls means killing some barred owls

In this illustration of the coast range from Tillamook to Coos Bay, provided by the Oregon office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, blue dots and red dots represent barred owls and spotted owls, respectively.
In this illustration of the coast range from Tillamook to Coos Bay, provided by the Oregon office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, blue dots and red dots represent barred owls and spotted owls, respectively.

When the Northwest Forest Plan was first enacted under the Clinton administration, one of the considerations was protecting enough old growth forest to keep the northern spotted owl species alive. The spotted owl remains a lightning rod and symbol of the conflict between the timber industry and conservationists. In the intervening years, wildlife managers observed barred owls encroaching on spotted owl habitat ranges. Barred owls are aggressive and prolific, edging out threatened spotted owls. One of the only things that will keep spotted owls from going extinct is killing some of their fierce and prolific competitors. Wildlife managers say they’ve seen the evidence of this for years, and now a new OSU-led study confirms it. We talk to the state supervisor for the Oregon office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Paul Henson about the ethical and practical considerations of reducing one species to save another.

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