We have a jeer today for the USDA Forest Service, which approved 14 timber sales in the Klamath National Forest in northern California, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for giving permission to slaughter 103 northern spotted owls, a subspecies already in steep decline, for the timber project. Called the Westside project, it proposes extensive post-fire salvage logging, 70 percent of which is in forest reserves designated by the Northwest Forest Plan as areas for wildlife conservation and forest restoration.
“USFWS’s approval of addition logging and habitat destruction is particularly distressing in light of Friends of Animals’ ongoing litigation with the agency regarding its experiment to kill barred owls under the guise of protecting northern spotted owls,” said Jennifer Best, associate attorney for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “USFWS has tried to divert attention from the real problem; what the spotted owls need more than anything is protected habitat. The approval of additional logging in northern spotted owl habitat further shows that USFS does not have the best interest of the owls in mind.”
According to analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, habitat will be removed from up to 57 areas where northern spotted owls are known to nest.
“The large number of spotted owls being put at risk by this project—and the amount of habitat being taken from the owl reserves—is an unreasonable risk to the population and should not have been approved,” said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy.
Furthermore, the project, which is in a 187,000-acre area in northern California affected by wildfires in 2014, is inconsistent with government research indicating the owls will often continue nesting in burned forests, says Fenwick. They also frequently forage in these areas due to abundant prey. The Northern Spotted Owl’s Recovery Plan calls for conserving large standing dead trees used by the owls for nesting.
The Forest Service claims Westside timber sales are intended to protect public safety, reduce hazardous fuels and provide for economic use of burned timber. The sales include 5,570 acres of salvage harvest, 12,700 acres of tree planting, 320 miles of roadside hazard treatment, and 24,450 acres of hazardous fuels reduction, including 11,180 acres of prescribed burn.
Fenwick points out that a better strategy would focus on protecting human safety by removing hazard trees along roads and targeting fire risk-reduction activities around nearby communities.
– See more at: https://secure.friendsofanimals.org/news/2016/march/cheers-and-jeers-0#sthash.KyM0wbqP.dpuf