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Mid-Morning Art Thread | Main | Axios: Biden's Prep for Events Includes Photographs Showing Him How to Walk to the Podium
July 08, 2024

THE MORNING RANT: Federal Government to Slaughter 500,000 Barred Owls after Logging Bans Didn’t Save the “Northern” Spotted Owl

Barred owl in Flight.JPG

A famous lie promulgated by anti-logging activists to save a regional “subspecies” of spotted owls (the “northern spotted owl” ) has now evolved into a federally orchestrated slaughter of a different species of owls – barred owls. A compendium of falsehoods in service to the 20th Century environmental agenda has led us to this place in the 21 Century at which “greens” are now the ones fervently calling for the mass-sacrifice of raptors, whales, and other magnificent creatures in order to appease their angry climate God.

“To save spotted owls, US officials plan to kill hundreds of thousands of another owl species” [AP – 7/03/2024]

To save the imperiled [northern] spotted owl from potential extinction, U.S. wildlife officials are embracing a contentious plan to deploy trained shooters into dense West Coast forests to kill almost a half-million barred owls that are crowding out their cousins.

For decades, the operational excuse for the decline in spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest was that timber companies were felling “old growth” trees, which was the only habitat that spotted owls could live in.

The barred owl plan follows decades of conflict between conservationists and timber companies, which cut down vast areas of older forests where spotted owls reside. Early efforts to save the birds culminated in logging bans in the 1990s that roiled the timber industry and its political supporters in Congress.

The old growth forests were saved! So why did spotted owl populations continue to decline? It turns out the situation had nothing to do with spotted owls preferring “old growth” trees versus younger trees, it was due to barred owls extending their North American range into the Pacific Northwest, and somewhat displacing spotted owls.

The proliferation of barred owls in recent years is undermining that earlier work, officials said. The shootings would likely begin next spring, officials said. Barred owls would be lured using megaphones to broadcast recorded owl calls, then shot with shotguns. Carcasses would be buried on site.

Lovely. What about the possibility that spotted owls might be mistaken for barred owls and shot by mistake? These two owls pictured below are a barred owl (left) and a northern spotted owl (right). On a gray day from 40 yards away, I’m sure there is no risk of misidentification of one of these birds amidst the branches, leaves, and twigs.

Barred Owl and Spotted Owl.JPG

Yet spotted owl populations continued declining after barred owls started showing up on the West Coast several decades ago. Across the region at least half of spotted owls have been lost, with declines of 75% or more in some study areas, said Katherine Fitzgerald, who leads the wildlife service’s northern spotted owl recovery program.

Unsurprisingly, now that logging cannot be blamed for the spotted owl’s decline, global warming is being identified as a factor. These eco-communists are so predictable.

Researchers say barred owls moved westward by one of two routes: across the Great Plains, where trees planted by settlers gave them a foothold in new areas; or via Canada’s boreal forests, which have become more hospitable as temperatures rise because of climate change.

Climate change. Is there anything it can’t do? Related, those devastating western wildfires a few years back were blamed on climate change, of course, but forest mismanagement was the major contributor, driven in large part by the spotted owl vs logger battles.

“Wildfires and the spotted owl hoax” [Bonner Cohen – CFACT – 10/02/2020]

Rapidly spreading wildfires have laid waste to hundreds of thousands of acres of timberland and grassland, destroyed homes and businesses, and killed dozens of people in an area stretching from western Oregon south to Napa and Sonoma counties in California’s wine country. The fires took advantage of the region’s hopelessly overgrown forests, which provide combustible fuel for the destructive conflagrations. And that’s where the spotted owl comes in. As a result of the owl’s being placed on the federal Endangered Species List in 1990, severe restrictions were placed on the cutting of trees on millions of acres in the region’s national forests.

Mr. Cohen then debunks the notion that northern spotted owls could only exist in “old growth” forests, but also note again the use of the term “subspecies,” to which I am going to circle back again shortly.

The environmentalists’ claims rested on the argument that the northern spotted owl, strix caurina occidentalis, one of several subspecies of spotted owl, was in danger of going extinct because its primary habitat, old-growth forests, was threatened by commercial logging. As the drama unfolded, the term “old-growth forests” became a staple of the debate over the owl.

But owls also thrive in younger forests, where their favorite prey, the northern flying squirrel and other rodents, are abundant. That the owl’s survival depended on millions of acres of timberland made off-limits to logging was an unfounded notion spread by environmentalists.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declared the northern spotted owl endangered in 1990, and draconian anti-logging practices were implemented. But they had no impact, because logging was not the enemy of the spotted owl.

In truth, the spotted owl was coming under pressure, but it had nothing to do with old-growth forests and nothing to do with logging. Barred owls began moving west from forests in Canada and Minnesota in the early 1900s and had made their way into the Pacific Northwest by the 1970s. Larger and more aggressive than the spotted owl, the barred owl successfully invaded the smaller owl’s territory and began winning the competition for prey and thus survival. In fact, the barred owl was known to be causing problems for its smaller cousin at the time of the debate over what to do with the spotted owl, but this was swept under the rug in the rush to save “ancient forests.”

But there is more to this story than the “old growth” fabrication. Another misrepresentation is that the northern spotted owl is a unique species at all.

Endangered “northern spotted owls” are a “sub-species” of spotted owls, which means they are, in fact, the same species as California spotted owls and Mexican spotted owls, which also live on the west coast. Their difference is that geographic distance and separation have caused some differences in plumage and appearance. To call these spotted owls a different “sub-species” is like stating that Norwegians, Koreans, and Nigerians are different subspecies of homo sapiens. The notion of bird “sub-species” is actively rejected by many in the ornithology community.

This research piece from the Cooper Ornithological Society makes it rather clear that the spotted owl is all one species, noting that the northern spotted owl’s identifying features are based on a specimen from Puget Sound in Washington, while the California spotted owl is based on one from Southern California, but the identifying features of spotted owls gradually morph between the two locations.

The original descriptions of the Northern and California Spotted Owls were based on a small number of specimens, taken from Puget Sound and southern California, respectively (Merriam 1898 ); specimens from intervening localities were not available at the time of the original descriptions. A subsequent morphometric analysis of traits cited in the original description of the Northern Spotted Owl revealed only subtle clinal variation in size, plumage pattern, and color among population samples from throughout the range of the species (Barrowclough and Flesness 1996); thus the original recognition of the races was apparently due to sampling of individuals from distant ends of clines, which differed in color and spot size.

In summary, two great lies are at the root of the environmental damage that has been done in the name of the spotted owl: 1) That logging was responsible for their decreasing spotted owl population in the Pacific Northwest; and 2) That there is even such a species as the “northern spotted owl.”

But hundreds of thousands of barred owls are now going to be killed in perpetuation of these lies. Considering that the “green,” anti-carbon advocates of the wind industry defend the senseless killing of millions of eagles, raptors, and migratory birds as a necessary religious sacrament, this proposed owl slaughter is consistent with the 21st Century environmental movement.

[buck.throckmorton at protonmail dot com]

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posted by Buck Throckmorton at 11:00 AM

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