Plan to Kill Rivaling Owls Called a 'War on Nature'

US Fish and Wildlife Service/CC BY 2.0

For decades, it's been the purview of the U.S. Federal government to protect the nation's most imperiled wildlife, but a controversial new plan is underway from the Obama administration aimed at saving one species of owl by culling another. Over the last quarter century, northern spotted owls have seen their numbers decline by 40 percent due to habitat loss and the unwelcome competition presented by rival birds, namely barred owls -- so officials say they plan on re-leveling the playing field with force. Meanwhile, critics of the proposal claim that move is representative of 'Obama's war on Nature'.

Although nowadays both the spotted owl, listed as threatened since 1990, and the more common barred owl share the same habitat in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the latter species is in fact a recent arrival from the eastern United States -- and the two have been anything but nestfellows. The success of spotted owls, a notoriously territorial species, has been hampered by the rival owls; that, coupled with logging practices, has reduced their population into the thousands.

Faced with these threats against the spotted owls, the Obama administration has put forth a plan to give the species a fighting chance by setting aside an additional 1.27 million acres for habitat protection, and enlisting a special task force to reduce the competition of the rival barred owls.

From The Chicago Tribune:

The draft plan is "a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement this week.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering "combinations of both lethal and non-lethal" methods to remove the barred owl, the statement said. They include capturing and relocating them or placing them in permanent captivity.

While the leadership behind the plan to kill rival owls say the move is rooted in conservationism, critics of the proposal see it differently. A group of Occupy Occupy D.C. protesters held a rally today in the nation's capital to urge a "cease fire in Obama's war on Nature', reports Science 2.0.

David Almasi, director of Occupy Occupy D.C.:

"Obama has picked winners and losers when it comes to bailouts, handouts and where we can get our energy. Now he's playing God by favoring one animal over another. What arrogance."

The plan will likely go into effect after a 90 day period for further assessment and public comment.

Tags: Birds | Endangered Species

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