Northern Spotted Owl Controversy Essay, Research Paper
The Northern Spotted Owl Controversy ? Jobs Vs Environmental Protection
The mere mention of the creature?s name brings shudders to loggers and some local inhabitants, fear over its existence has incited rallies, garnered the attention of three government agencies, and caused people to tie themselves to trees. On April 2, 1993, President Bill Clinton embarked on a quest to settle a long-standing battle. The environmentalists on one side, and their attempts to protect natural resources, and the timber industry?s desire for the same on the other. Unemployment and economic devastation was said to surely follow, due to the loss of timber industry jobs. No trees were allowed to be cut within 70 acres of The Northern Spotted Owl?s nest. Other laws protected trees in a 2,000-acre circle around the birds.
Listed as ?threatened? under the Endangered Species Act, the Northern Spotted Owl has inadvertently landed in the in middle of the complicated debate over logging in the Pacific Northwest. Under the Act, logging of many old-growth forests has been suspended to protect the bird and its remaining habitat.
Survival of the Northern Spotted Owl
The Northern Spotted Owl can only live in old growth environment, it is considered an ?indicator species?: The health of the Northern Spotted Owl population indicates the health of the old-growth forest ecosystem. An individual Northern Spotted Owl needs more than 3,000 acres of old growth to survive, because of its scarce food supply. The Northern Spotted Owl is found in the cool, moist woodlands on the Pacific Northwest. The habitat of the Northern Spotted Owl can be described as trees relatively large in diameter in the stand, multi-layered canopy, large tall live trees with cavities, broken tops, mistletoe, or platforms of branches capable of holding accumulated organic matter suitable for use as a nest, dead standing trees and fallen decayed trees to support abundant populations of prey species, especially northern flying squirrels and woodrats.
The Timber Industry
In May 1991, Federal District Judge William Dwyer issued a landmark decision finding that the Forest Service had violated the National Forest Management Act by failing to implement an acceptable management plan for the northern spotted owl. His decision forbade timber sales across the spotted owl region until the Forest Service implemented an acceptable plan. An injunction blocking timber sales in Northern Spotted Owl habitat affected 17 national forests in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.
The consequences for the rural economy in many areas of the Pacific Northwest were devastating. As many as 135 mills were closed, pushing unemployment up to 25 percent in some small communities. The mill closings affected cutters, loggers, and truck drivers, including other businesses that provided services to them were also out of work.
It makes sense that wildlife needs a healthy forest in order to survive. Wildlife, however, also plays an important role in maintaining a forest’s health. Clearcutting is ecologically unsound because it destroys a complex ecosystem and endangers many of the species that rely on it. Managing forest habitats for owls also provides many other wildlife species with places to live. Because it is such a stable and unique community, it provides a habitat for many organisms that are only found there. Old growth forests are also valuable in the maintenance of watersheds. Without the ground cover and extensive root systems associated with old growth, water runs off steep hillsides much more rapidly and causes extensive erosion. Many streams in old growth forests are important for fish spawning, and the excess sediment loads can completely destroy spawning areas. Some species of salmon are now seriously endangered, primarily as a result of excessive logging activity. Another value that is a little less tangible has to be experienced to be appreciated. Just walking into an old growth forest causes most people to catch their breath and they feel as if they have entered a cathedral. It’s easy to feel that you are the only person on earth as you walk beneath the silent mammoths towering above. Knowing that the trees you are looking at could be 2,000 years old makes you feel insignificant.
Economic setbacks due to saving complex echo systems and endangered species is a small price to pay. If we continue to focus on quantity rather then quality, we will exhaust the earth?s environment. At this point we have caused extensive damage to the environment, plants and animals due to greed and commercialism it is certainly time to pay our share.
Des Jardins, J. (1997) Environmental Ethics
Power, T. (1995) Economic Well-Being And Environmental Protection a report By 60 Northwest Economists, Reviewed by George McKinley
Sweet Home hard hit by federal, state logging restrictions available on-line at http://www.sweet-home.or.us/forest/owl/index.html