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USFWS turns aside Calif. owl petition

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USFWS turns aside Calif. owl petition

Postby ERIC » Tue May 30, 2006 10:06 pm

USFWS turns aside Calif. owl petition

Tam Moore
Capital Press Staff Writer
5/26/2006 6:00:00 AM

For the second time in three years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a petition to list the timber-dwelling California spotted owl as threatened with extinction.

The owl lives mostly on timber industry and U.S. Forest Service lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and for more than a decade the USFS has protected larger trees to reserve habitat for the bird. A population of the owl in San Bernardino County is in decline, and the Sierra populations are said to be increasing.

Two cousins, the Northern and Mexican spotted owls, were put under Endangered Species Act protection in 1990 and 1993, respectively.

Steve Thompson, the USFS regional manager, said fuel-reduction efforts by the Forest Service are critical to keeping California owl habitat intact. He credited Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest industrial owner of owl habitat, with an aggressive program protecting owl nesting sites while increasing overall habitat.

The official findings were to be printed in the May 24 Federal Register. The Center for Biological Diversity, a main petitioner in the 1993 Mexican owl listing, and the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign led the coalition that won a lawsuit triggering this review. USFS first denied a California owl listing in 2003.

The petitioners contend that the barred owl, a relative of all spotted owls, is making inroads in the Sierras. Crossbreeding between the more-aggressive barred owl and Northern spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest is said to be one factor in maintaining a target number of owls. Also of concern were fuel-reduction practices in California and changes in California Forest Practice Rules for private landowners.


Steve Brink of the California Forestry Association, which represents private timberland owners, reinforced the USFWS call for more study of the shy owl. Brink said the U.S. Forest Service needs to pay attention to owl habitat and prey data being gathered on private lands.

The USFS Sierra Framework plan protects all trees more than 30 inches in diameter regardless of site or age, and specifies up to 300-acre no-cut circles around known owl habitat.

Brink, in a telephone interview from his Sacramento office, said neither measure is appropriate. Retaining larger trees is a setup for increasing wildfire intensity, he said. And on private lands, owl habitat between 5 and 28 acres appears to protect the bird.

“We really think there needs to be more research on prey base. For this owl that’s wood rats, and they need sunlight,” said Brink. Sunlight is part of the fringe of conifer forests and adjoining oak woodlands, not mature stands where branches touch and reduce light reaching the forest floor.
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Postby hikerduane » Wed May 31, 2006 6:16 pm

One of the old logging truck owner/drivers was telling me about a couple spotted owls inside one of the mills he visited during one of Donna M.'s Yellow Ribbon Rallies up to Happy Camp or some where up there. He didn't believe the owls were scarce.

That was a cool site, watching the trucks snake thru the Sierra Valley on the first Yellow Ribbon Rally.
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Postby dave54 » Mon Jun 19, 2006 1:11 pm

hikerduane wrote:One of the old logging truck owner/drivers was telling me about a couple spotted owls inside one of the mills he visited during one of Donna M.'s Yellow Ribbon Rallies up to Happy Camp or some where up there. He didn't believe the owls were scarce...

A nesting pair also in an old cottonwood tree in the middle of Westwood, Ca.

Two separate studies (one in-house by the FS and another by a grad student at UNR) in the Almanor Basin showed the owls were not reading the literature about where they were supposed to be. The were nesting in mosaic mid growth stands and not the extensive areas of old growth. A separate study in NW CA conducted by Colo State Univ showed they did best in managed mosaic forests. This is backed up by the on-the-ground experience of field biologists, who seem to be puzzled by all these 'peer-reviewed studies by academic researchers' that contradict what the field biologists see with their own eyes.
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