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Posts Tagged ‘old growth’

Photo: TimberWars podcast.
When the environment wins, logging families and their communities suffer. We need to find ways to meet the needs of both.

Until I heard a report from the investigative radio show Reveal, I didn’t understand the full import of the 1980s fight to save the northern spotted owl, a fight that pitted logging livelihoods against a bird.

Apparently, it was never really about the owl — or at least not primarily about the owl. It was about old-growth forests and the habitats they provide for an array of species.

Activists at the time were concerned that there were no laws protecting ancient trees. But there were laws protecting birds and animals. Getting the northern spotted owl listed as threatened or endangered, activists thought, could save a whole ecosystem.

The TimberWars podcast, here, offers “the behind-the-scenes story of how a small group of activists and scientists turned the fight over ancient trees and the spotted owl into one of the biggest environmental conflicts of the 20th century.”

From Reveal: “In the 1980s and ’90s, loggers and environmental activists faced off over the future of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. In this episode, Reveal partners with the podcast series Timber Wars from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Reporter Aaron Scott explores that definitive moment in the history of the land – and the consequences that reverberate today. 

“We begin with an event that became known as the Easter Massacre, in which a stand of old-growth trees in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest was cut down despite protests that attracted national media attention. 

“The Easter Massacre helped galvanize the environmental movement. Protests intensified in the forests, but environmentalists kept losing in the courtroom because there aren’t many laws to protect ecosystems. There are, however, laws to protect animals. 

“We explore how a small team bet it all on the northern spotted owl in a high-stakes strategy that involved the science of fruit flies and secret meetings at lobster shacks. While environmentalists ultimately succeeded in locking down millions of acres of forests, that success turned what had been bipartisan environmental laws, like the Endangered Species Act, into cultural wedges. 

“We end with how this conflict affected one timber town and how this fight that started decades ago continues to rage on. With the rise of climate change and the threat of intensifying wildfires, battles over the role of forests take on even greater significance.”

The Oregonian, here, published an update in March of this year. “Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to preserve protections for 3.4 million acres of northern spotted owl habitat from the US-Canada border to northern California, the latest salvo in a legal battle over logging in federal old-growth forests that are key nesting grounds for the imperiled species.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cut the amount of protected federal old-growth forest by one-third in the final days of [the last] administration. … President Joe Biden’s administration has since temporarily delayed putting those new rules into effect in order to review the decision. …

“ ‘We didn’t want to leave any room for error,’ said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center, a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Portland, Oregon. Brown estimated there are fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs of the owls left in the wild, but no one is sure. …

“Timber interests, including the American Forest Resource Council, filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging the delay in implementing the new, reduced habitat protections and say the forest in question isn’t used by the northern spotted owls.

“The existing protections on logging in federal old-growth forests in the US West have cost Pacific Northwest communities that rely on the timber industry over $1 billion and devastated rural communities by eliminating hundreds of jobs, the group says. …

“The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed in a settlement with the timber industry to reevaluate the spotted owls’ protected territory following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a different federally protected species. …

“For decades, the federal government has been trying to save the northern spotted owl, a native bird that sparked an intense battle over logging across Washington, Oregon and California. Old-growth Douglas firs, many 100 to 200 years old, that are preferred by the owl are also of great value to loggers.

“After the owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act, earning it a Time magazine cover, U.S. officials halted logging on millions of acres of old-growth forests on federal lands to protect the bird’s habitat. But the population kept declining, and it faces other threats from competition from the barred owl and climate change.”

Read more at the Oregonian, here.

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