"Spotted owls are only one part of this story," said Kristen Boyles of Earthjustice. "The old growth forests that are home to the owls are part of our Northwest outdoor heritage and give us places to hike, hunt, camp, drink clean water, and breathe clean air. Removing these protections would be a tragedy."
The proposal relies on the draft recovery plan for the owl issued last month. That draft recovery plan was greeted by a chorus of criticism, including from members of the recovery plan team itself, that Bush administration political appointees rejected the body of scientific knowledge showing that protecting the owl's old-growth forest home is essential to its recovery.
"By suppressing science in the draft recovery plan and then relying on that plan, the Bush administration is setting up the dominos to topple old growth protection," said Dominick DellaSala, a biologist who was part of the owl recovery plan team.
"This proposal lets BLM off the hook and will allow it to gut old growth protections in Oregon," said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. "Timber industry demands are driving revisions to undermine the Northwest Forest Plan."
The push to dismantle the Northwest Forest Plan and other protections for the owl is being driven by sweetheart deals between the timber industry and the Bush administration in response to a series of "friendly" lawsuit settlements with the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry lobbying group. The timber industry has long fought critical habitat protections, despite the importance of habitat for species' recovery.
The Fish and Wildlife Service listed northern spotted owls as a threatened species in 1988. Less than 20% of the original old-growth forests remain throughout the Pacific Northwest. Old growth forests are important sources of clean air and water and support native salmon runs.
Public comments on the proposal are due August 13, 2007.