Guest Editorial: What the Spotted Owl Teaches us About Government
By Sam Duvall
It would be funny if it was not so sad: a government program implemented to stop forestry on hundreds of thousands of acres of prime forestland on the West Coast because the Northern Spotted Owl was in decline.
That happened when the spotted owl was listed as “endangered” in 1990. Just recently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service called for comments on a proposal to list the eastern diamondback rattlesnake as “endangered.” The AFA argued strongly that there is no basis for so listing a snake that is regularly seen throughout its habitat.
Yet, considering what happened out west, we have to hope that science trumps environmental fiat and that we in the Southeast will not have to endure what happened to our brethren on the left coast.
You may recall that in February, 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that it wasn’t forestry, or loggers, or indeed, anything much to do with the forest industry, that caused the decline of the northern spotted owl. It was instead, the rampant predation of the smaller owl by its larger cousin, the barred owl!
To put the federal government’s listing of the spotted owl as “endangered” in human terms, upwards of 40,000 jobs were lost on the West Coast and scores of sawmills, large and small, were shuttered because of a mistake made by our federal lands’ overseers. And there was not a hint of irony or apology in the announcement that the government had miscalculated the reason for the spotted owl’s demise.
In the rest of his announcement, Salazar noted the government’s plan to employ: “a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports the jobs and revenue for local communities.” This announcement should have been made BEFORE 40,000 people lost their livelihood and numerous rural communities became ghost towns. Finally, in noting the spotted owl’s continued decline, the government came to a startling solution: Shooting barred owls!
So, where are we now? Except for the thousands of lost jobs and the millions in wages denied families that worked in the woods out west, almost back to where we started before 'spotted owl' became a household name. The government is even considering reintroducing management and logging in spotted owl territory, primarily to suppress wildfires. While there were no winners, the barred owl is certainly a big looser in the western lands fiasco.
As I said at the start, this would be funny if it wasn’t so sad; sad for its destructiveness on a legitimate American industry; sad too for the barred owl who could face the death penalty for only doing what comes natural, and saddest of all for 40,000 Americans also doing what came natural before the government declared war on them!
We should take no comfort from the fact this fiasco happened out west. If the feds list the eastern diamondback rattlesnake as “endangered” does anyone want to bet on what will happen to the forestlands of the Southeast?
Chris likes to say that elections have consequences and often talks about the importance of being involved in the political process. Government at every level is out of control. Solutions like those available to the government are not available to us. Our only recourse is at the ballot box and we will see you there in November!
As Always, Thanks for Your Support!
(Above photo: By AP Photographer Don Ryan)