The News Tribune
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meet Charles Darwin.
At the behest of the Endangered Species Act, the FWS is about to undertake an experiment that challenges a fundamental principle of biology: survival of the fittest. This fall, it plans to dispatch hunters to shoot or otherwise kill barred owls in Washington, Oregon and California forests where the northern spotted owl has been struggling to hang on.
The idea is to try killing 3,603 barred owls (a strangely precise number) to determine whether their suppression can help the endangered spotted owl recover.
We’d love to see the concept work. This region has incurred immense costs — including the jobs of thousands of timber workers — preserving what’s left of the spotted owl’s forest habitat. Since the owl was listed for ESA protection in 1990, the U.S. government has all but banned logging in federal forests, turning many timber communities into impoverished ghost towns.
After that painful investment in the spotted owls, it would be hard to watch them fall prey to their barred cousins, interlopers from Canada and the East.
But the spotted owl could be headed toward that fate without massive human intervention (or even with it). Since the barred owl started muscling into Northwest forests 50 or so years ago, it has consistently out-competed the spotted owl. It’s bigger, breeds faster and is less finicky about what it eats. More....