Friday, October 21, 2005

Barred Owls v. Spotted Owls

In the WSJ [subscription required]:
"But at least we have the owls, right? Wrong. Scientists are struggling to explain why, more than 10 years after a halt of logging on the 'old growth' trees in which spotted owls are supposed to thrive, the bird's population has continued to plummet -- declining by 7% a year in Washington. The answer, biologists are beginning to admit, is … another owl. Barred owls migrated into spotted owl territory decades ago, and have a nasty habit of killing the smaller birds, driving them out of their homes, or mating with them -- producing impure offspring. 'We're seeing two species duke it out. It's too early to tell if [spotted owls] will survive,' federal wildlife biologist Eric Forsman was quoted as saying last year." [Kimberley A. Strassel, "Owls of Protest," Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2005, page A12]
It is also reported that after the spotted owl was listed as endangered the result was an 80% decrease in logging on 24 million acres. A Congressional committee apparently found that more than 900 mills, with at least 130,000 employed, closed. It is also reported that there were some who thought the barred owls might be a problem as a rival species back in 1992.

There seems to have been a significant economic loss associated with a government policy that now appears may have been misguided. I wonder if government has a response to the barred owl threat to the spotted owl?

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