Killing Owls to Save Owls

First they came for the loggers, destroying 30,000 jobs and countless lives. Now they’re coming for the Barred Owl.

Anyone remember the Great Spotted Owl Controversy? Back in the late 80s and early 90s, it was the first major instance of the environmental movement (with the cooperation of Al Gore and the Clinton administration) using the Endangered Species Act to accomplish their stealth goal — in this case driving productive mankind out of millions of acres of federally owned old-growth forest.

When a judge ruled that cutting down trees endangered the picky owl’s habitat and had to end, it sparked widespread protests and marches by soon-to-be out-of-work loggers.

The economies of small towns in the Pacific Northwest collapsed, as the rural chainsaw-wielding Kulaks were defenestrated by judicial edict. Federally subsidized housing for the spotted owl grew from 690,000 acres in 1986 to 11.6 million acres in 1991. Oregon’s timber harvest on federal land plunged from 4.9 billion board feet in 1988 to 240 million board feet in 2009. The usual phony advocacy science promised this was all in a good cause and that the species would rapidly recover.

Oops. Fast forward 20 years. According to the Oregonian, the spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) wasn’t served a copy of the court ruling, and has continued to die off. Turns out the major culprit in its demise was evolution — in the form of the barred owl, a closely related species that is bigger, more omnivorous, and generally all around superior to the spotted owl.


About Well of Knowledge Tour Guide

I am a public policy thinker and amateur historian. My interests are seeking knowledge in all areas of life.
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