may log land formerly set aside for the endangered northern spotted
owl. In 1997, the state implemented a Habitat Conservation Plan,
which allowed the state to log some owl territories if it set aside
other land for habitat. As an extra layer of protection,
then-Department of Natural Resources Public Lands Commissioner
Jennifer Belcher voluntarily set aside a number of owl "circles,"
covering up to 14,400 acres each.
successor, Doug Sutherland, says he will consider logging Belcher's
circles to help alleviate the state's budget crunch. He says
management of owl circles, which cover 258,000 acres in western
Washington, is ineffective.
The decision to open
up the circles to logging, the DNR says, is a transition to
But with spotted owl
populations in decline (HCN, 3/12/01: Will logging save the spotted
owl?), environmental groups aren't buying the
"Sutherland going in and cutting over the
next 10 years is crazy," says Lisa McShane of the Northwest
Ecosystem Alliance. "The new habitat (called for in the
conservation plan) doesn't exist yet, and he plans on taking away
the current habitat."
McShane is most concerned
about nine of the 121 owl circles located in southwest Washington,
because there is little viable habitat nearby. Washington Fish and
Wildlife biologist Paula Swedeen says that, if those circles are
logged, the population in that part of the state could go extinct
within 10 years.
The DNR says that each circle
will be individually evaluated for sales, and that it will be a
year or more before logging begins.