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Owl plan could fall to local agencies
Proposal calls for shooting barred owls
By LEE JUILLERAT. Herald and News 3/4/12
The Klamath Basin’s spotted owl population has been declining since 2002 when an influx of barred owls moved into the region, and plans to remove the more aggressive barred owls are on target, local experts say.

Northern spotted owls increasingly are being threatened by growing populations of larger barred owls, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to study removing and shooting barred owls to protect the smaller, more passive northern spotted owl.

Mark Slezak, timber manager for Columbia Forest Products, favors the removal of barred owls, either by capturing and relocating them or by shooting the birds, if it leads to a larger timber harvests.

Protection for northern spotted owls, which are listed as an endangered species, led to setting aside millions of acres of Pacific Northwest forestlands in the 1980s and huge declines in logging. Despite those measures, spotted owl numbers have shown a 40 percent decline in the last 25 years. The presumed causes of the declines are ongoing effects of lost old-growth habitat before the 1990s and increased competition from barred owls.

Local connection

A draft environmental impact statement, if approved, would give U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority for experimental removals of barred owls from various spotted owl habitat, possibly including forestlands managed by the Fremont-Winema National Forest and BLM’s Klamath District.

Retired state wildlife biologist Ralph Opp, who is active in Klamath Basin environmental groups, also supports the plan.

“I think shooting barred owls is OK,” he said. “We’ve reduced the available habitat for spotted owls.”

“If you want these things,” he said, referring to spotted owls and other endangered species, “we have to make sacrifices, and that includes reducing the numbers of predators.”

But Marshal Moser, a wildlife biologist, naturalist and manager of the Lonesome Duck Ranch, has mixed emotions.

“I would support a well-thought-out plan,” he said. “I have a conservationist’s view, not a preservationist’s view. I think we do have a responsibility to future generations to try and keep all the components of what were given.”

Opp and Slezak said proposals to shoot or capture barred owls have been discussed for years

“It wasn’t a huge surprise. It was just a matter of when,” Slezak said

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Falls field office would not comment, but Janet Lebson, an agency spokeswoman, emphasized no decisions have been made and public comments are wanted.

“We are well aware of how sensitive these decisions are,” she said.


ThinkStock photo

The more aggressive barred owl is taking over spotted owl habitat.



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