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Twenty-year fight to save owl continues with new plan

The federal government finally announced a controversial plan to do what they’ve been trying to do for 20 years: save the northern spotted owl.

According to wildlife official Robyn Thorson who was quoted in OPB News, the plan is aimed at preventing extinction by targeting the three main factors contributing to the owl’s continued decline:

“The three main threats to the spotted owl are past habitat loss, current habitat loss, and competition from barred owls,” Thorson said.

Barred owls are a bigger, more aggressive species that’s slowly been moving westward into the territory of northern spotted owls. As a measure to boost populations, an experiment in President Barack Obama’s proposed plan to save the spotted owls involves shooting thousands of barred owls.

This method is probably too extreme and unsustainable because some scientists say it will take shooting barred owls forever to always control populations.

A better plan, as laid out by the government, is to protect habitats and demand certain companies establish areas specifically for the northern spotted owl.

This is equally controversial because of the owl’s history with logging companies. More than a decade ago, the government put heavy restrictions on logging companies to save the species. That was when the northern spotted owl became a rallying cry for environmentalists.

Despite the restrictions, the population continued to decline. In fact, a new study released with the plan shows evidence that northern spotted owls are declining quicker than expected at 3 percent each year.

So, angry corporations are using the evidence that probably nothing will stop population declines as leverage against the federal plan to save the owls.

The New York Times article on this subject points out this is a touchy issue that will most likely lead to court cases, protests and changes in government.

Regardless of what happens, saving the northern spotted owl will remain a symbol of the complicated battle against climate change and environmental degradation.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.