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We Must Save You, Or Your Neighbor, But Just One

January 31, 2014

I’d seen this before, and then Jim Geraghty noted it in his daily e-mail, so I figured I’d comment on it.  File under: Weird stuff that happens when the feds and the state get together on an idea.

An experiment to see if killing invasive barred owls will help the threatened northern spotted owl reverse its decline toward extinction is underway in the forests of Northern California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday that specially trained biologists have shot 26 barred owls in a study area on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation northeast of Arcata, Calif.

They plan to remove as many as 118 barred owls from the area, keeping the 55 known barred owl nesting sites open over the next five years to see if spotted owls increase, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Robin Bown. Contractors go to an area that barred owls are known to be in, play a digital caller to attract them, and shoot the birds with a shotgun.

The entire timber industry in the Pacific Northwest was the opposite of decimated — it went down 90%, not 10% — in the last couple decades.  The forests are actually seriously unhealthy because there’s been no management.  But heck, the owl they were here to save is dying off anyway.  So the next idea is to start shooting other owls to see if that’ll help.  This is known as your government at work.

It’s pretty common belief now that all the government intervention in forestry has mostly made the tree situation worse.  The trees are much smaller these days, and they’re grouped closer together.  Around our place, private and public concerns are spending piles of money thinning forests before they catch fire.  In the old days, it used to be that nature just occasionally caught areas on fire, and the low-ground burns would thin out smaller trees and provide room for new growth.  Oh, well, we put all those out these days, so now we get serious crown fires instead.

Hopefully we’ll see more sensible policy at some point, but in the mean time, it makes for good theater, provided you don’t mind killing jobs, animals, and trees.

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