To save the imperiled spotted owl, the Obama administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has shoved its smaller cousin aside.
The plan is the latest federal attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the passive, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago.
The government set aside millions of acres of forest to protect the owl, but the bird’s population continues to decline — a 40 percent slide in 25 years.
Bastardized version of the Theory of Second Best: In the presence of an uncorrectable (non) market failure, it is sometimes better to create a secondary market failure.
A plan announced Tuesday would designate habitat considered critical for the bird’s survival, while allowing logging to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and to create jobs. Habitat loss and competition from barred owls are the biggest threats to the spotted owl.
I like the slipping in of jobs...but remember as John so often points out: JOBS ARE COSTS.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the draft plan “a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities.”
And we know how well science and policy get along.
By removing selected barred owls and better managing forests, officials can give communities, foresters and land managers in three states important tools to promote healthier and more productive forests, Salazar said.
But what if I value the barred owl more than the spotted owl?
The new plan, which replaces a 2008 Bush administration plan that was tossed out in federal court, affects millions of acres of national, state and private forest land in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.
The plan to kill barred owls would not be the first time the federal government has authorized killing of one species to help another. California sea lions that feast on threatened salmon in the Columbia River have been killed in recent years after efforts to chase them away or scare them failed.
The U.S. Agriculture Department kills thousands of wild animals each year — mostly predators such as coyotes — to protect livestock. Other animals, including bears, wolves and raccoons also are killed through the program.
This is interesting. In other cases, the culling of species is to prevent market losses (salmon have market value, livestock have market value...). In this case, the administration is promoting culling to prevent further non-market (existence) losses. If the spotted owl goes extinct, no markets would collapse.
The latest plan for spotted owls was accompanied by a presidential memorandum directing Interior to take a number of steps before the plan is finalized, including providing clear direction for how logging can be conducted within areas designated as critical habitat and conducting an economic analysis at the same time critical habitat areas are proposed.
More economics analysis is always better (for me and John at least).
Officials acknowledge that the plan to kill barred owls creates an ethical dilemma, but say an experiment on private land in northern California has shown promising results. Spotted owls have returned to historic territories after barred owls were removed.
Salazar and other officials stressed the new plan’s job-creation component, noting that for the first time logging would be allowed in areas designated as critical habitat for the owl. Previous plans had prohibited logging in areas designated as critical habitat.
Jobs are costs.
“Appropriate timber harvests consistent with ecological forestry principles (should) be encouraged,” the Interior Department said in a statement.
The American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, was skeptical that so-called ecological logging would produce a significant amount of timber or jobs. At the same time, the plan has the potential to double the amount of acres designated as critical habitat, said Tom Partin, the group’s president.
Count me among the skeptics. That's not to say I'm opposed. Just skeptical of any jobs claims.