Bush Plan To Protect Spotted Owl From Global Warming Is To Wait Ten More Years

Northern Spotted OwlOn Friday afternoon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) quietly released its Final Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl, first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 after widespread logging destroyed its old-growth forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest. The FWS estimates the plan will allow the owl to recover within 30 years, at a total cost of $489.2 million, “if all actions are implemented and effective.”

Unfortunately, that’s as big “if,” because the plan doesn’t have any global-warming response, even though its authors recognize:

Many of the current future climate projections for the Pacific Northwest suggest the spotted owl and its habitat probably will be affected by climate change through several pathways, including but not limited to changes in fire regime; patterns of rain and snowfall; wildlife diseases; and abundance and distribution of native and nonnative species of fish, wildlife, and plants. We have begun compiling and reviewing the best-available information on this subject, and we anticipate modifications to our recovery strategy will likely be needed in the next decade.

In other words, the Final Recovery Plan is not “final” at all. The FWS admits that global warming threatens the spotted owl and its habitat. But because the Bush administration refuses to take action on global warming, it produces completely illogical documents like this one. The authors also assert that no new regulatory mechanisms — like regulation of greenhouse gas emissions — are needed:

The Service believes existing regulatory mechanisms do not preclude, and may support, the Recovery Actions identified in this Plan. The actions identified in this Plan are believed needed to achieve recovery. The current existing regulatory framework will not hinder recovery.

Instead of dealing with global warming, the FWS focuses on the threat to the spotted owl by a competitive species, the barred owl. In 2006 a draft plan under the oversight of Bush appointees “called for luring barred owls to 18 sites across the region with decoys, then shooting them with shotguns.” This strategy has been dropped, but the 34-point final plan includes twelve action items about the barred owl. The only one involving climate change calls for continued assessment.

The Northern Spotted Owl is now the fourth species of animal this administration has recognized is threatened by global warming, joining the elkhorn and staghorn corals listed in 2006 because of “persistent elevated sea surface temperature” and the polar bear listed last week because of Arctic sea ice decline. This is a sadly small list, considering that about one million species are under threat of extinction by 2050.

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