The Spotted Owl, The Forest's Products Industry, And The Public Policy

1919 words - 8 pages

The Spotted Owl, the Forest's Products Industry, and the Public Policy
I. Introduction
A. The Spotted Owl
B. Logging Industry
II. Conflicts of Interest
A. Economic needs
B. Preservation Needs
1.Endangered Species Act
2.Special Interest Groups
III. Resolutions
A. Possible Solutions
B. Eventual Outcome
1. Loss of Interest
a. Other Species Demand Attention
2. Migration
3. Repopulation

The spotted owl was seen as a symbol of all things environmental during the late 1980's and early 1990's. The logging industry was well on its way to destroying most of the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Environmentalists swarmed the area, sabotaging logging efforts and calling for strict limitations on logging in the region. The logging industry "successfully portrayed the animal as the reason for layoffs: "The connection with the spotted owl is jobs vs. environment.""(Brokaw, 1996).

The spotted owl is an eighteen-inch tall bird-of-prey that roams the thick forests of the Pacific Norwest. The adult spotted owl enjoys a life at the top of the food chain for the region. This bird has only one enemy, the logging companies that inadvertently threaten its natural habitat. Clear-cutting operations of old growth forests destroy breeding and hunting areas. Clear-cut logging is the timber industry's version of strip mining. Almost nothing remains that resembles the forest that once stood there except for thousands of tree stumps the size of Volkswagens.
Although the bird is not a key player in the forest ecosystem, many environmental groups have made it a mascot for environmental causes everywhere. If the Spotted Owl were to become extinct, life would go on without it. Other birds of prey, not so dependent on old growth forests, would be able to take up the "slack" from the disappearance of this owl. Many people have wondered why this insignificant owl gets more press than the decimation of salmon streams nationwide, when it would have no economic impact on our society as a whole.
The logging industry has made millions of dollars from the harvesting of old growth lumber over the past several decades. Recently, they have become more responsible about clear-cut logging. Harvested forests are often replanted to provide for future wildlife habitat and logging efforts. However, this doesn't help the spotted owl. It needs old growth forests with their tangle of massive trees and thick dense brush. The logging industry is threatened by this small owl. Thousands of jobs have been lost. Families are starving. Lumber prices have skyrocketed.
So this sets up a struggle. Loggers need the lumber for economic prosperity. Environmentalists want to protect this owl. How will both parties win? Can both parties win? There are many issues that arise out of this conflict. The public needs cost efficient lumber. The loggers need their jobs. The spotted owl needs a home.
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