It wasn’t the Hawaiian coot, the Mississippi sandhill crane or the southwestern willow flycatcher that “reshaped the economy and tore apart the political landscape” in the name of the Endangered Species Act.
Those honors, not surprisingly, go to the northern spotted owl, which all but took the court stand in its defense.
Now, the Oregonian newspaper reports that two decades after the “wrenching drive” to save the obscure bird, including shutting down entire woodlands, “the northern spotted owl is disappearing anyway.” Wait until you read why.
Fewer than 25 spotted owls remain in British Columbia, and they are vanishing inside Olympic National Park in the state of Washington as well, “where logging never disturbed them,” the newspaper notes.
As for the spotted owl’s knockout blow, it is “coming from a direction that scientists who drew up plans to save the owl didn’t count on: nature itself. The versatile and voracious barred owl is proving far more adept at getting rid of the smaller owl than the Endangered Species Act was in saving it.”
Admits David Wiens, an owl expert at Oregon State University: “It looks like we may have really underestimated the number of barred owls.”
A viewpoint shared by Eric Forsman, a USDA Forest Service biologist whose pioneering research put the spotted owl on the map and who said, “I think we’re going to be depressed when it’s all over.”