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Professor Edward Lobb in his essay "The Turn of the Screw, King Lear, and Tragedy" has drawn attention to a striking similarity between Henry James's story .

The conflict eventually led to the Northwest Forest Plan, which preserved 20 million acres of forest from logging including critical owl habitat. Environmental and economic pressure gradually closed most of the lumber mills in the area as well, decreasing the impact of logging on the owls. Despite the protections, however, the spotted owl is still losing ground, with 3. Jones says in the Eldorado Study Area the bird has plummeted by 50 percent in the last two decades, while the species has dropped by 77 percent in Washington and 68 percent in Oregon.

The newest threats to the bird are an invasion of barred owls, Strix varia, a larger related species from eastern North America that is pushing into the spotted owl habitat. The other threat, depending on who you ask, is megafires caused by fuel buildup in the western forests after a century of fire suppression.

The God Squad and The Case of the Northern Spotted Owl (Bullfrog Films clip)

One solution to the megafires is restoration of the forest, which typically means selectively logging trees so fires do not grow as large or burn as hot. For many environmentalists, that is a slippery slope. Since most of the thinning is contracted to logging companies, some see thinning as a backdoor for loggers to access protected forests. Others worry the restoration affects the old, multistory forest habitat spotted owls prefer. Letting fires take their course, they argue, might be a better solution, especially if research shows that the owls stick around after the fires.

Until the King Fire paper, the best evidence of how spotted owls handle intense fires was a study looking at the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, the largest wildfire in Sierra Nevada history. A survey the year after that fire showed that the blaze had minimal impact on the owls.

In fact, other studies show that the owls like to hunt in severely burned patches of forest that provide habitat for small mammals. For one, the Rim Fire had riparian habitat that survived the burn, and the shape of the blaze had more edge habitat around severely burned areas. The King Fire burned 50 percent of its area severely and in one contiguous path, placing it in the 95th percentile for forest fires.

It severely scorched 50, acres, leaving behind little or no remnant habitat. The fact that the fire went through a spotted owl study area also adds an extra layer of information to the research.

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A Discussion on the Northern Spotted Owl Controversy - Jobs Vs Environmental Protection | Kibin

In my opinion, our study may supercede the types of information collected from the Rim Fire. Many scientists who look at the evidence left by the King Fire see thinning as a necessity to prevent megafires. You have more tree survival, which has less impact on the owls. Even in the King Fire, as shrubs and oak sprouts come back, the owls could go back and use those areas differently than they did in year one.

Zach Peery, the professor who has led the monitoring of the owls in Eldorado over many years, thinks the path forward is clear. There are lots of other issues to deal with, and our paper does not presume to provide answers. Something went wrong.

The Spotted Owl Controversy

Please email webmaster sierraclub. By signing up, you are opting in to receive periodic communications from the Sierra Club. The effects of a recent megafire in California have ignited a fresh debate about a prominent keystone species. By Jason Daley Aug 15 Like what you read? Sign up for daily updates from Sierra magazine. Answers will vary!


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Most of these stakeholders live in the region, and they all have an interest in protecting both the environment and the economy of the Pacific Northwest. These stakeholders have rejected the idea that owl conservation will lead to devastating unemployment, or a thriving timber industry will lead to the extinction of the northern spotted owl.

Split Decision On Spotted Owl Is Inconclusive

For instance, the giant timber company Weyerhaeuser maintains a series of protected reserves among its harvest areas. These reserves allow owls to fly from one protected area to another—including state and national forests adjacent to the reserves, where no logging is permitted. The owl populations are not isolated, and economic activity can continue. What are some possible reasons for this decline? Populations of northern spotted owls continue to decline for a number of reasons: old-growth forests are still being cut down for timber and development; natural disasters , such as fires and storms, can destroy forested areas; and climate change increases the threat of tropical diseases such as West Nile virus.

However, the biggest threat to the northern spotted owl may be increased competition for resources from another species, the barred owl. Michael "Nick" Nichols, the artist who took this photograph, is "kind of on a mission, working really hard to tell [endangered species'] story, speaking for them since they can't speak for themselves.

Nick's portrait of this owl gives the bird an enormous amount of dignity and power. It is photographed in the wild, not a zoo, so the bird is comfortable in its natural habitat.


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The owl is flying toward a baited lure held by the photographer. Nick has captured the owl in full flight, making the bird, which is actually rather small, look large and imposing. Finally, the owl's huge, dark eyes seem to look directly at the camera, making startling eye contact with viewers. Also called a primeval forest, primary forest, primal forest, or ancient woodland.

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