WASHINGTON (AP) — To save the imperiled spotted owl, the Obama administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has shoved its smaller cousin aside.
The plan is the latest federal attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the passive, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago.
The government set aside millions of acres of forest to protect the owl, but the bird's population continues to decline — a 40 percent slide in 25 years.
A plan announced Tuesday would designate habitat considered critical for the bird's survival, while allowing logging to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and to create jobs. Habitat loss and competition from barred owls are the biggest threats to the spotted owl.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the draft plan "a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities."
By removing selected barred owls and better managing forests, officials can give communities, foresters and land managers in three states important tools to promote healthier and more productive forests, Salazar said.
The new plan, which replaces a 2008 Bush administration plan that was tossed out in federal court, affects millions of acres of national, state and private forest land in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.