The Fix Is In — Lawsuit to Kill Old-Growth

The enviros are suing again, this time to promote, not prevent, the destruction of old-growth forests.

Shocking but true. I’ll say that again, just so you don’t get the message backwards. A slash pile of so-called “conservation” groups filed a lawsuit Nov. 24th against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enjoin the Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. Their reasoning: the Plan allows for restoration forestry that would prevent and/or reduce the impact of catastrophic fire in Oregon old-growth forests.

Some background. The northern spotted owl was listed as endangered species in 1990. Finally, 18 years later, a recovery plan was presented last May [here], after the USFWS was forced to do so by court order. The reason given by the USFWS for NOT creating a recovery plan in all those years, something required within 3 years of listing under the Endangered Species Act, was that the Northwest Forest Plan satisfied that requirement. From the USFWS Press Release that accompanied the 2008 The Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan (NSORP):

A draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl was completed in 1992 but not finalized due to the development of the Northwest Forest Plan, which amended 26 land and resource management plans (LRMPs) of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. These LRMPs serve as the basis of conservation for a wide variety of species, including the northern spotted owl. The draft recovery plan released today builds on the Forest Plan and solely addresses the recovery needs of the northern spotted owl.

The Northwest Forest Plan has been a catastrophic failure. Spotted owl populations have declined 60 percent or more, old-growth habitat has been incinerated in megafires, and the economy of the region, especially the rural economy, has been decimated. Absolutely no good has come from the Northwest Forest Plan. The years of suffering and tragedy associated have been a monumental waste.

A draft spotted owl recovery plan was proposed by the USFWS over a year ago, but withdrawn after wide criticisms. The draft plan promoted “wildland fire use” (whoofoos) in spotted owl forests. The final plan, the NSORP, threw out all the whoofoo language.

It seems the USFWS, on second thought, decided it was better for spotted owls to use restoration forestry treatments and not Let It Burn fires in Oregon old-growth. They were encouraged in that regard by owl biologists and forest ecologists such as Jerry Franklin, who testified before Congress a year ago [here] that catastrophic fire in Oregon old-growth forests is often fatal to all the trees, including the old-growth:

We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs… Without action, we are at high risk of losing these stands–and the residual old-growth trees that they contain–to fire and insects… Inaction is a much more risky option for a variety of ecological values, including preservation of Northern Spotted Owls and other old-growth related species. We need to learn as we go, but we need to take action now. Furthermore, it is critical for stakeholders to understand that active management is necessary in stands with existing old-growth trees in order to reduce the risk that those trees will be lost.

The USFWS got that message. In the final NSORP they okayed the use of judicious thinning to save owl forests from destruction by holocaust.

The enviro-arson crowd went ballistic. They popped a cork. Their heads exploded. And they did what comes natural to them, they filed a lawsuit. From the Eugene Register Guard [here]:

Conservationists fire the latest volley in a battle over a Bush move to open up old growth logging

By Jeff Barnard, Eugene Register Guard, Nov 25, 2023

GRANTS PASS — Conservation groups are suing the Bush administration to undo the northern spotted owl recovery plan that is making it possible to ramp up old growth forest logging in Oregon.

A coalition of conservation groups filed motions Monday to intervene in a timber industry lawsuit over the owl in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Seattle Audubon Society and the others argue that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was politically influenced by the Bush administration and violated the Endangered Species Act by ignoring the best available science, both in the plan for saving the owl from extinction and in deciding to reduce protections for old growth forests where the owl lives by 1.6 million acres.

The owl recovery plan twice flunked peer reviews by outside scientists who said it contained no scientific basis for allowing more logging of the old growth forests set aside under the Northwest Forest Plan as habitat for the owl. The plan also identified wildfire and the invasion of spotted owl territory by the barred owl as factors in the threatened bird’s decline.

Dominick DellaSala of the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, served on a team of scientists who worked on the owl recovery plan before it was taken over by the Fish & Wildlife Service.

He said they were prevented from doing their jobs by a group of Bush administration officials in Washington, who needed an owl recovery plan that would allow logging in old growth forests in order to push through the so-called WOPR, or Western Oregon Plan Revision, which dismantles the Northwest Forest Plan for saving owls and increases logging on federal lands in Western Oregon.

Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing conservation groups, said the owl recovery plan, smaller critical habitat and the WOPR “are the final pieces to the puzzle the Bush administration has been putting together the last eight years to undo the Northwest Forest Plan and deliver unsustainable amounts of timber to the timber industry.”

“And they are happening at the last minutes of this administration, and we are going to have to be fighting those even once we get into an Obama administration that hopefully will have a more scientifically valid view of what old growth forests and rivers and streams in the Pacific Northwest need.”

The usual suspects, the anti-logging, anti-forest types, are aghast that catastrophic incineration of old-growth might be prevented. I say “might be” because no restoration forestry has happened yet. In fact, last summer hundreds of thousands of acres of spotted owl habitat in Oregon and Northern California were incinerated by raging crown fires, such as the Rattle, Middlefork, Panther, Ukonom, Siskiyou, Blue 2, Bear Wallow, and many other fires.

Naturally the wackos blame “the Bush Administration” for “logging the old-growth.” It is their modus operandi to politicize forest management to the nth degree. And any treatment is “clearcutting the old-growth” no matter if the exact opposite is done: removing second-growth and accumulated fuels from around the old-growth to protect and save the old trees.

Let It Burn fires, however, are mother’s milk to the enviro-arsonist crowd, most of whom are not (yet) in prison for deliberate arson.

Note that the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. That tactic was used to prevent the affected communities in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California from having any opportunity to participate. Involvement by the people most affected is the least desired. Indeed, the people who live in the watersheds to be incinerated are despised and feared by the enviro-arsonist crowd.

This land is not your land, this land is not my land. It belongs to political activist lawyers and judges who sit in courtrooms thousands of miles away and who determine just how much old-growth forest way out here in Oregon should be burned to the ground.

It has nothing to so with spotted owls, either. As I pointed out, the spotted owl population has crashed since the Northwest Forest Plan was inflicted on us 15 years ago. Lock It Up, Burn It Down is as hard on spotted owls as it is on human beings, even more so. But that is of no concern to the enviro-arsonists. They cheered the destruction of old-growth forests and the resident spotted owls last summer, as the wackos do every time old-growth is destroyed by fire.

No, the lawsuit has nothing to with owls, or old-growth, except in so far as to kill both for political gain. But not to worry, the upcoming Obama Administration will fix all that. Chicago politicians are notorious fixers. Oregon should brace for another fix from thousands of miles away. And like the previous fixes from that crowd, it will be fatal to forests, owls, watersheds, airsheds, and our economy.

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