Spotted-Owl Populations Declining

The northern spotted owl, a species that took on huge symbolic significance in the early ’90s when activists used its protected status to sharply curtail logging in federal old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, is once again the center of controversy. A study released yesterday shows that spotted-owl populations in the region continue to decline — particularly sharply in Washington state. Study author Eric Forsman did not conclusively pinpoint a cause: “It’s hard to blame the decline on harvest on federal lands,” he said, noting that the lower numbers may be due to the incursion of the more resilient barred owl or loss of habitat through wildfires. Enviros are expected to use the study to fight the Bush administration’s planned revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan, which would allow more logging. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the owl’s status as a threatened species.