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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

December 18, 2012 - 6:37 am

The Fish and Wildlife Service released its final recovery plan yesterday for the Mexican spotted owl, and the conclusion is that logging works.

The owl was listed as threatened on March 16, 1993, under the Endangered Species Act and is found in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.

“The recommendations in this plan include management methods that will restore resiliency to SW Forests, making the forests more resistant to stand replacing fires, improving both human safety and owl habitat,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director for the Service.

“Combinations of mechanical and prescribed fire treatments may be used to minimize risk of high-severity fire effects while striving to maintain or improve habitat conditions for the owl and its prey,” Fish and Wildlife said. “These active forest management techniques will likely increase resistance to insects and disease, as well as enhanced productivity and vigor, which would help maintain populations of not only the owl, but its prey and other forest-dependent species. Landscape level forest restoration, opening up more forest to treatments as this plan does, should provide economic opportunity and jobs with increased wood products becoming available. Nothing in the plan says that any area is necessarily hands-off.  This will be determined on a case by case basis.”

“Two decades ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mexican Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act, effectively ending logging in New Mexico and putting thousands out of work here and across the nation,” said Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.). “Now, we see that approach was wrong all along, and that the FWS was making decisions not rooted in sound science, but driven by politics, Washington lawyers, and extreme interest groups. In the Final Recovery Plan for the Mexican Spotted Owl, the FWS indicates that responsible thinning is actually good for owl populations!”

Pearce commended Tuggle for finding a “balanced solution” rooted not in Washington, but in his home state.

“While logging is often demonized as destructive clear-cutting, the reality is that even the FWS now recognizes the truth: smart logging is not only good for the economy, but is good for owl populations,” Pearce said. “I’ve always been against clear cutting, but I’m strongly in favor of the responsible logging that will keep forests healthy, replenish valuable underground aquifers, restore watersheds vital to New Mexico’s ecosystems and communities, cut down on forest fires and the cost of fighting them, allow the owl population to flourish, provide economic stability for small mountain communities, and bring good jobs and economic growth back to New Mexico.”

When the owl meets recovery criteria, the department will review again with consideration of taking the owl off the list.

The government estimates the recovery plan for the owl will cost $42 million over the next decade.

“The problem with this revised recovery plan is that it’s got nearly no strong protections for the owl and gives the U.S. Forest Service a pass on the thinning and logging. It’s fire hysteria rather than sound science,” said Bryan Bird of the Santa Fe-based group WildEarth Guardians.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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