for Northern Spotted Owl
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 9.6 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl this morning, nearly double the last designation in 2008.
The acreage in Oregon, Washington and California won't be off limits to logging. But the service's decision requires heightened federal review of logging projects on lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the bulk of the designated land.
The northern spotted owl has been at the center of the Northwest's timber wars since it was listed as threatened in 1990 under the Endangered Species Act.
The listing better protected old-growth stands -- the owl's favored habitat -- but drove down logging on federal lands. Harvests in Oregon's federal forests totaled a half-billion board feet last year, down from 2.5 billion to 5 billion board feet in the 1980s.
Timber industry groups warned the expanded critical habitat could dampen efforts to increase logging on BLM lands in southwest Oregon, where rural counties are banking on revenues from increased timber sales.
The expanded area is also likely to increase lawsuits from environmental groups on individual timber sales across the spotted owl's range, said Jim Geisinger, executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers.
"That's one of the very few certainties about this," he said. "There will be more appeals and lawsuits."
The new designation comes after a lawsuit and a finding from the Department of the Interior's inspector general in 2008 that Bush administration appointees distorted the science last time around.
In 2008, the service designated 5.3 million acres as critical habitat, the vast majority already reserved from logging under the Clinton-era Northwest Forest Plan.
The new designation covers about a third of the federal forests included in that plan.
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Editor's Note: So, even after we came to understand that the spotted owl was not endangered by logging but by a larger bird of prey, this administration doubles down on what was disproven...Sounds pretty stupid to us.
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