AN3C. Stay Current—Case Study: The Headwaters Controversy

Cover for A New World View

Staying current for Chapter 3

{ A New World View Contents }

2015-12-10. The northern spotted owl is in danger again. And this time it’s from another owl. By Darryl Fears, the Washington Post. For GSS A New World View chapter 3. Excerpt: …Across that gorgeous emerald range, federally protected northern spotted owls and invasive barred owls are in a nasty turf war. In a new report from the front lines, a U.S. Geological Survey study says that spotted owls that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed on the endangered species list to save them from logging and development don’t stand a chance. Research shows that spotted owl populations have fallen by up to 77 percent in Washington state, up to 68 percent in Oregon and by more than half in California, based on some estimates. “In addition, population declines are now occurring on study areas in southern Oregon and northern California that were previously experiencing little to no detectable decline through 2009,” the USGS said in a statement about the report released Wednesday and published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications. …Barred owls are an eastern species that migrated west. They compete with spotted owls in the mountainous forest for food and space. An earlier Fish and Wildlife study was frank about the severity of the problem. “Barred owls now outnumber spotted owls in many portions of [their] range,” it said. Wherever barred owls were established, spotted owl populations plummeted….   See also Feds move ahead with plans to kill barred owls — to save spotted owls, 2013-07-23, By M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News. 

2013-07-23.  Feds to start shooting barred owls. Excerpt: Federal wildlife officials plan to dispatch hunters into forests of the Pacific Northwest starting this fall to shoot one species of owl to protect another that is threatened with extinction….. Don Ryan, The Columbian. See also Feds move ahead with plans to kill barred owls — to save spotted owls, 2013-07-23, By M. Alex Johnson, Staff Writer, NBC News. 

2013-02-05.  Owl vs. Owl | Charles Bergman, Slate. Excerpt: …the spotted owl may be the most controversial bird in the country. …Twenty years ago, it was a national symbol for one of the defining environmental battles of the 20th century—the fight over whether to log or preserve old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Now the spotted owl faces a new and even more desperate battle, one that has it staring straight into the face of extinction. The new threat comes not from people but from an invasion of its own cousin—the aggressive and highly adaptable barred owl—into the spotted owl’s last territories. The future for spotted owls currently looks so bleak that wildlife managers in the Pacific Northwest have proposed a desperate plan: They want to kill thousands of barred owls.  …On June 26, 1990, the northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Several studies had clearly linked the spotted owl’s decline to the logging of old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. …research has affirmed and illuminated the species’ heavy dependence on towering old-growth forests. …President Clinton called for a forest summit that led to the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, protecting both the owl and the region’s spectacular old-growth forests. …Loggers complained bitterly about the spotted owl, but the truth is, …harvesting at previous levels was no longer sustainable. …There just weren’t that many trees left to log. …On the Olympic Peninsula, …there were 150 spotted owls in 1992. In 2009, just 13. In Dale Herter’s study area in the Cascades, there were 127 owls in the 1990s. Now, he says, there may not be that many in the whole state of Washington. The … barred owl … was once found only in the East, but over the past several decades, barred owls made their way across the prairies. The first barred owl was reported in Washington in 1965. In Oregon, 1974. In California, 1981…. Read the full article:

2012 Nov 21. Feds aim to double habitat for spotted owl. By Jeff Barnard, Westport News. Excerpt:  The last building block of the Obama administration’s strategy unveiled Wednesday to keep the northern spotted owl from extinction nearly doubles the amount of Northwest national forest land dedicated to protecting the bird by the Bush administration four years ago. Still, conservation groups that went to court to force the overhaul said key gaps remain, such as an exemption for private forest lands and most state forests. The full critical habitat plan will not be published until next week, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that 9.6 million acres of Oregon, Washington and Northern California will come under its provisions, almost all of it federal lands… Following a directive last February from the White House, officials revised the latest plan to make room for thinning and logging inside critical habitat to reduce the danger of wildfire and improve the health of forests…..

2012 July 15. Forest Service halts logging approvals for old-growth area in southern Utah. By The Associated Press, The Republic. Excerpt: Federal foresters have backed away from logging a high-country swath of spruce in southern Utah, handing a victory to environmental groups fearing for the survival of a rare hawk. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Utah Environmental Congress say logging would have removed old-growth forests north of Escalante that support a dwindling population of goshawks…Logging proponents say the decision leaves conditions in the dense forest ripe for a catastrophic wildfire in the area north of Escalante. “It’s dying faster than you can think. Beetles are wiping it out,” Bruce Chappell, a logger and log home builder in Lyman….

2011 August 8.  Chestnut research effort showing promise.  By Morgan Simmons, Knoxville News Sentinel.  Excerpt: …Once an essential component of the eastern forest ecosystem, the American chestnut was decimated by a lethal fungus known as the chestnut blight that spread from Maine to Florida and west to the Ohio Valley during the early-to-mid 1990. Today, American chestnuts still sprout from remnant root stock, but the trees eventually succumb to the blight, typically by the time they’re 10 to 15 years old. For more than 30 years the American Chestnut Foundation has been back crossing American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts to produce a strain that’s resistant to the blight, but retains the lumber and mast characteristics that made the American chestnut one of the most valuable trees in the forest…Seeds that pass the tests are expected to be available for wider distribution in the next seven to 15 years. Scott Schlarbaum, director of UT’s tree improvement program, said the success of the chestnut breeding project proves that the recent plague of exotic pests and diseases attacking native forests is a battle that can be won….

2011 June 30. Plan Issued to Save Northern Spotted Owl. By William Yardley, The NY Times. Excerpt: …After repeated revisions, constant court fights and shifting science, the Fish and Wildlife Service presented a plan that addresses a range of threats to the owl, including some that few imagined when it was listed as a threatened species in 1990.
The newer threats include climate change and the arrival of a formidable feathered competitor, the barred owl, in the soaring old-growth evergreens of Washington, Oregon and California where spotted owls nest and hunt….
…The spotted owl is declining by an average of 3 percent per year across its range. While some populations in Southern Oregon and Northern California are more stable, some of the steepest rates of decline are here in Washington. Some study areas in the Olympic and Cascade ranges show annual declines as high as 9 percent….

2011 June 12. Killing of One Owl Species Saves Another. By Lauren Sommer, NPR News. Excerpt: …Later this month, wildlife officials are releasing a new plan to protect the owls, and it includes a controversial new approach: eliminating their cousins….
…Northern spotted owls became famous in the 1990s, when the federal government set aside millions of acres of forest to protect them. That stoked an epic battle between loggers and wildlife groups over their habitat. Since then, spotted owls haven’t come back. Biologists believe that’s due to an invasion of barred owls.
Barred owls take over spotted owl territory and in some cases even attack them. They have an advantage because they eat a wider variety of prey. In places like western Washington, the spotted owl population has been cut in half since the barred owl showed up….

2011 January 25. Oregon timber groups file suit over spotted owl recovery plan. By Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian. Excerpt: Two Portland-based timber industry groups have filed suit alleging that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service improperly used outside advisors to help revise a recovery plan for the northern spotted owl. 
The Carpenters Industrial Council and the American Forest Resource Council say the wildlife service’s use of advisory committees violated federal law. Meetings were conducted privately with no written notes or other records that can reviewed by the public, said Tom Partin, the resource council president. 
…Industry representatives worry the federal government’s recovery plan for the spotted owl for the first time will include regulation or restriction of private timber land. For that reason, industry groups question the role of experts and advisors who are not federal employees… 

2010 November 12. Feds give more time for owl recovery plan comments. By Jeff Banard, Seattle Times. Excerpt: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday extended the deadline for comments on its draft spotted owl recovery plan to Dec. 15…
…The timber industry and members of Congress asked for an even longer extension. They said the draft proposed significant changes to the 2008 plan, including a consideration for the first time of private lands in saving the owl from extinction.
“What’s the rush,” Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, said in a statement. “It’s as if they are trying to hide fatal flaws in the plan.”…
…Conservation groups, including the Seattle Audubon Society, Oregon Wild and others, sued last year to undo the plan, arguing that U.S. Fish and Wildlife ignored the best available science and was influenced by the Bush administration… 

Winter 2008. Plan in Peril. Alice Talmadge, Forest Magazine. Excerpt: The war over old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest may not be over, despite a thirteen-year truce that has curtailed harvesting, protected water quality and provided habitat protection for threatened species such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. Measures that were put in place in 1994 by the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan are in danger of being drastically cut by a combination of economics, skewed science and political pressure to increase the timber cut in Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
This August, the Bureau of Land Management proposed tripling the current amount of logging allowed on 2.5 million acres of forests-called O&C lands-that the agency manages in western Oregon…. 

2007 January 20. Pacific Lumber leans Company in Headwaters deal files for bankruptcy, citing logging restrictions. Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer. Excerpt: The Pacific Lumber Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, saying that environmental restrictions are preventing it from cutting enough redwoods to continue making payments on the roughly $714 million debt that Texas financier Charles Hurwitz incurred more than 20 years ago…. Pacific Lumber has been an environmental lightning rod in California ever since Hurwitz, aided by junk bond king Michael Milken, bought out the company in 1986 and more than doubled its cutting of old-growth redwood trees.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein brokered the 1999 Headwaters Forest deal in which Hurwitz’s Maxxam Corp. agreed to sell about 10,000 acres of old-growth forest for $480 million to the government, which turned it into a park. It simultaneously agreed to a habitat conservation plan that obliged it to follow a strict set of logging rules on more than 200,000 remaining acres. … In a statement Friday, Feinstein said she believes “Pacific Lumber is required to meet the obligations of the Habitat Conservation Plan whether or not they are in bankruptcy.” …Pacific Lumber … In December …filed a lawsuit in a state court in Fresno charging that the state has not lived up to its part in the Headwaters deal.
…The forestry department and the California Department of Fish and Game signed the Headwaters deal. But the State Water Resources Control Board did not, and environmentalists have persuaded it to limit Pacific Lumber’s tree cutting to prevent more silt from fouling streams. Pacific Lumber says these additional restrictions were unforeseen, unnecessary and costly, while environmentalists have pointed to obvious silt deposits downstream of logging sites and argued successfully that state law requires the company to clean up its operations.
…Arnot, the Pacific Lumber spokeswoman, said the bankruptcy filing should not immediately affect the 538 people who work for the company. But its workforce has been shrinking. In December, Pacific Lumber cut its workforce by 19 percent….

19 January 2006. Lumber firm bankruptcy may imperil redwoods. FATE OF 200,000 ACRES IN HUMBOLDT IN DOUBT. By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News and NPR story (audio available): . Pacific Lumber Co. Faces Financial Crisis. by Jason Margolis 

Fall 2006. Ancient Forest and Fire. Today’s fires are the crucible for tomorrow’s old-growth forests. By James Johnston. Forest Magazine. Excerpt: …The real fascination of a centuries-old forest … is found in the subtle intricacy of life and relationships between living things. Chris Maser, writing in Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest, examines one thread of the millions that make up this rich tapestry:
“Flying squirrels are associated with large amounts of rotting woodÉbecause that is where their food, the belowground truffles, fruits most abundantly. Most of the truffles in one way or another are dependent on the rotting wood in the soil, and flying squirrels, whose main food is truffles, are the staple prey for the spotted owls. These owls are therefore indirectly dependent on the rotting wood.”
Each nook and cranny of an ancient forest’s extravagant foliage is a home or hunting ground for a different species of bird, rodent, cat, bruin, deer or bat. All these species are predators of, prey to, or even a home for thousands of other life forms, all interacting ceaselessly with each other, with the vegetation and with the soil in astonishing ways that are, for the most part, unknown to us.
…”In 1902 we had a lot of fire in the Pacific Northwest,” says Jerry Franklin, a professor at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources. “There wasn’t anyone around to salvage-log it. As the forest grew up, instead of being a collection of uniform small trees, it had this legacy of large snags. Some of that forest became habitat for northern spotted owl by the time it was sixty or eighty years of age.” Without large snags, he says, it would have taken the forest 150 years or longer to develop the biologic diversity necessary to support spotted owls. …the Forest Service today is looking to the burned landscapes of the West to meet timber quotas. Mills desperate for logs are scrambling to get their hands on burned timber, and they’re funding an aggressive public relations blitz to brand burned forests as public enemy number one. According to their spin, dead trees are devoid of wildlife, pollute drinking water supplies, set the stage for more-severe fires and, if left unlogged, obstruct forest regeneration. And, of course, the spin contends that burned trees that could be turned into timber products go to waste, their value lost as the wood is infested with insects, rots, and falls to the ground. But the value of dead wood, according to Franklin and others, can’t be calculated just with dollar signs. Nutrient-rich soil is created by dead wood decomposing over time, and the only dead wood that will be returned to the soil of a young forest is from the last big fire-it can be hundreds of years before the forest begins developing large dead wood supplies of its own. In addition to their role in energy and nutrient cycling, the dead snags left after a fire create habitat for more than two-thirds of ancient forest species. The fallen wood holds in soil that might otherwise wash into streams, choking salmon spawning grounds. And healthy aquatic systems depend on the pools and riffles created by the same large logs as they are slowly deposited into the stream decades after a fire. …

Fall 2006. The Owl, Spotted. By Alison Hawthorne Deming. NRDC – OnEarth. Excerpt: When scientists and poets spend time in each other’s company, the result is a deeper look into the world’s hidden beauty. …The northern spotted owl is perhaps the most studied bird in the world, inspiring unprecedented collaboration among scientists, federal and state agencies, universities, and landowners. …The data gathered led in 1994 to the comprehensive Northwest Forest Plan, which decreased the rate of logging and altered how it is done, giving the owls and their entire ecosystem a better chance at survival. But data cannot compare to the experience of that deep well of attention, quiet, and presence that is the owl. She has a spotted breast; a long, barred tail; and tawny facial disks with brown semicircles fringing her face and back-to-back white parentheses framing her eyes. These markings give the impression that her eyes are the size of her head. The blackness of her pupils is so pure they look like portals into the universe….

Winter 2005 issue of California Forests is about education and forests. Advocate for “responsible forestry”.

Winter 2003-2004. Forest Magazine — the entire issue is dedicated to “Ancient Forests”

  • Ancient Forests. By Patricia Marshall. Our values have changed in the ten years since President Bill Clinton’s forest summit and the subsequent Northwest Forest Plan. What do we want from the forest and what do we still take from it? 
  • Who Won the Spotted Owl War? By William Dietrich. Seattle Times Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental reporter William Dietrich declares a winner ten years after the Northwest Forest Plan was signed. It’s not who you think. 
  • The Incredible Shrinking Chainsaw. By Rebecca Clarren. The economics of old growth have shifted. In ten years, mills have modernized and the market for big trees has nearly disappeared. 
  • An Idea In Search of a Definition. By Jessica MacMurray. Nobody can agree on what old growth is. But lots of people have opinions.
  • Stalking Giants. By Tim McNulty. One man searches the West for the world’s biggest trees.
  • Perspectives on Owl War. Six perspectives on who won the spotted owl war. January/February 2004 For Sale: America’s Largest Temperate Rainforest. Nature’s Voice. With thirty percent of the planet’s unlogged temperate rainforest, Alaska’s Tongass National Forest stands as the greatest living reminder of the towering forests that once spanned coastal North America. But if the Bush Administration gets its way, some of the Tongass’s last untouched valleys will soon be opened to timber companies bent on rainforest liquidation — all of it subsidized by the American taxpayer. …. Although the last of the region’s pulp mills shut down in 1997, the Timber Products Company of Oregon is now being encouraged by the Bush Administration to re-open and operate the Ketchikan veneer mill, which would help stoke demand for Alaskan rainforest timber.