After reading "Conservation Quandary," your feature on owls, I flipped to the cover page to see if I was reading the April Fools' edition (HCN, 8/18/08). When I realized this wasn't a joke, my first reaction was anger that we are wasting tax money to save spotted owls from other owls. After re-reading the article, I decided that the author had put together a pretty good piece on a complex subject, but what really continued to upset me is that there are people who take protection of endangered species to a radical extreme. This not only wastes our money, it is just not scientifically justified. First, the natural selection process has been weeding out the weaker species for millions of years; what scientific basis do we have for interfering with natural selection? Second, the justification for protecting endangered species has often been based on impacts to the surrounding ecosystem, but in this case the author provides no indication that replacing the spotted owl with the barred owl will have any negative impact. Finally, it just seems that some people have made preservation of endangered species a goal to be pursued no matter what the impact to people or even to other species; there is no scientific justification for this extreme viewpoint.
I think it's time to stop intervening on behalf of the spotted owl and let nature take its course, whatever that will be. If these researchers need something else to do and they still want to interfere with natural processes, they can come to Colorado and help figure out how to destroy bark beetles.