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So Much For Saving The Spotted Owl
Newhouse News ^ | 8/2/2007 | Michael Milstein

Posted on 08/03/2007 8:45:58 AM PDT by Incorrigible

So Much For Saving The Spotted Owl

By MICHAEL MILSTEIN
  Image

A spotted owl on National Forest land west of Veneta, Ore. (Photo by Torsten Kjellstrand)

   

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — Two decades after the wrenching drive to save an obscure bird divided Americans and reshaped the economy of the Pacific Northwest, the northern spotted owl is disappearing anyway.

Even the most optimistic biologists now admit that the docile owl — revered and reviled as one of the more contentious symbols the nation has known — will probably never fully recover.

Intensive logging of the spotted owl's old-growth forest home threw the first punch that sent the species reeling. But the knockout blow is coming from a direction that scientists who drew up plans to save the owl didn't count on: nature itself.

The versatile and voracious barred owl is proving far more adept at getting rid of the smaller owl than the Endangered Species Act was at saving it:

• Fewer than 25 spotted owls remain in British Columbia, the northern fringe of its range — and where barred owls first moved into the West. Biologists say the best hope for Canada's spotted owls would be for zoos to capture and breed them, and perhaps someday return them to the wild.

• Spotted owls are vanishing inside Olympic National Park, where logging never disturbed them. A biologist looking for them says it sometimes seems like searching for the long-lost ivory-billed woodpecker. Barred owl numbers, though, are "through the roof.''

• Researchers fitting owls with radio transmitters and tracking them in Oregon's woods are finding more barred owls than anyone realized. A few decades ago, no barred owls existed there; now they outnumber spotted owls more than 2-to-1.

"It looks like we may have really underestimated the number of barred owls,'' says David Wiens, a leader of the study based at Oregon State University.

Eric Forsman, a U.S. Forest Service biologist whose pioneering research put the spotted owl on the map, is helping oversee the study with Wiens. "I think we're going to be depressed when it's all over,'' Forsman says.

The spotted owl was not the only reason for protecting Northwest forests, but it was the trigger. With its dependence on towering old trees, the owl brought the Endangered Species Act into play during the logging boom of the 1980s. Judges finally put a stop to the cutting that threatened it.

Sawmills were shut; thousands of loggers lost jobs. Technology and global trade were altering the timber industry at the same time, eliminating jobs, too, but the spotted owl came to embody a sharp and, for many, painful break from the region's proud logging history.

Rural restaurants put spotted owls on their menus, and parade marchers burned the reclusive bird in effigy. T-shirts and bumper stickers urged: "Save a logger, eat an owl.''

"The spotted owl was really just a symbol for a much broader ecological and political debate,'' Forsman says. "Regardless of what happens to the spotted owl, I don't think that debate will change.''

Given enough protected forests, biologists thought, the spotted owl would rebound. They did not foresee competition moving in so fast.

Many researchers and activists say the threat of barred owls makes protection of the spotted owl's forest home even more critical today. But timber industry leaders who have the Bush administration's ear see little reason they should not now cut the trees where spotted owls used to perch.

The Endangered Species Act does not allow giving up on spotted owls. So federal biologists, under a new owl recovery plan, want to launch an assault on barred owls — shooting them out of some patches of forest to see whether it helps spotted owls.

But will that work any better?

"Unless you are prepared to remove barred owls forever, I don't think it's realistic,'' Forsman says. "At best, we're going to end up with some considerably reduced population. At worst, who knows? All species eventually go extinct. ... That certainly could be the worst-case scenario, yes.''

A HOOT, BUT NO REPLY

Scott Gremel looks up at the treetops in Olympic National Park and hoots. It's the best way to find spotted owls. They're curious and swoop in quickly when they hear another owl call.

Nothing happens.

He's in a mossy draw of towering trees, calling for one of the few remaining pairs of spotted owls in the 922,651-acre park. Barred owls, first confirmed in Olympic in 1985, moved into the draw this year.

"In all honesty, I don't expect to find spotteds here again,'' Gremel says.

He began surveying owls in Olympic National Park in 1994, when spotted owls still inhabited most of their known nesting sites. Owls should be doing well in the park — a protected refuge where logging never posed a threat. But there are few places where they're doing much worse.

This is easily the worst year yet: Gremel has never found fewer spotted owls or more barred owls. Barred owls have taken over nearly two-thirds of the spotted owl sites. It's not clear what's happening to the spotted owls. Some retreat to higher elevations until barred owls arrive, then they also wink out.

No one is sure what brought barred owls west from their original range along the East Coast. Some say it's a natural expansion; others say they followed settlers west, hopscotching across forests that grew up once people started extinguishing natural wildfires. Now they're moving south along the West Coast.

"I think places farther south of here are just behind us in terms of filling up with barred owls,'' Gremel says.

He pads across the spongy ground.

'I'm not sure people realize how much change there really has been,'' he says. 'Everybody did the right thing and tried to get ahead of the curve. We saved so much habitat. Then this pretty unforeseeable thing just mucked everything up.''

NOT PART OF THE PLAN

Barred owls were already arriving when forest and wildlife scientists, including Forsman, drew up the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, setting forests on a new course.

"We didn't factor them into the plans because we didn't know what was going to happen,'' Forsman says. 'We just proceeded on the assumption that if we took care of habitat, everything else would take care of itself.''

The Northwest Forest Plan, brokered by the Clinton administration, put millions of acres into older forest reserves for spotted owls, marbled murrelets and salmon. Other forests were supposed to supply a reduced but steady stream of logs for sawmills, though they never really did.

Biologists predicted that spotted owls in parts of the Northwest might decline slowly until logged forests recovered, then would rebuild. In reality, the decline has proved steeper than expected. In many areas, it's accelerating.

Spotted owl numbers dropped close to 3 percent a year in the 13 years since the Northwest Forest Plan was enacted — a total of 50 percent or more in parts of Washington, where barred owls are most numerous and have been around the longest.

'The sites with the longest history of barred owls are the sites facing the largest population declines,'' says Martin Raphael, a research wildlife biologist with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Raphael's studies, including owl population models that project trends, show that spotted owl numbers still depend on how much habitat remains. But barred owls are now the controlling factor in whether those numbers rise or fall.

If the numbers are falling, more habitat "buys you more years.'' What it doesn't necessarily do is reverse the trend.

"If (a spotted owl population) is very small and declining, it's going to pass over a threshold from which it can't recover,'' Raphael says. "Nobody has been able to predict what that point is. When you have a downward trend, you're going to reach that point.''

PELLETS TELL STORY

Plastic bags hanging along the wall inside a garage west of Eugene, Ore., may explain why barred owls are taking over Northwest forests. Each bag holds an owl pellet — a lump of indigestible remains, such as bones and fur, that owls regurgitate after each meal.

Scott Graham, a biologist working with David Wiens to track owls in Oregon's Coast Range, collects the pellets and picks them apart to see what the owls are eating.

"We'll climb trees in the next few weeks to collect pellets,'' he says. "You climb up there, and it's like a pellet gold mine. Lots of data up there.''

It's clear from the pellets that spotted owls are finicky eaters: Most bones they spit up come from flying squirrels. But barred owls are eating all kinds of things: crayfish, skunks, shrews, weasels.

Because barred owls eat a wider variety of prey, they need not scour as much forest for food. They pack closer together — as many as four pairs of barred owls in the territory each spotted owl needs. They reproduce faster. Spotted owls feed at night; barred owls hunt around the clock.

'It's like they don't sleep,'' Graham says.

"They're kind of superbirds,'' Wiens adds.

They know this because they've fitted more than 20 of each owl species with radio transmitters and track the birds 24/7. It's the first study examining how the two species interact.

Biologists still don't know whether barred owls kill spotted owls, force them away from nests or stress them so they don't reproduce. Barred owls are much more skittish and difficult to catch. Biologists usually find the more territorial barred owls while calling for spotted owls.

But Wiens and his team looked specifically for barred owls, using recorded barred owl calls. They found far more barred owls that way, suggesting that earlier studies had missed many.

The wide appetite of the barred owls also makes biologists think they may be causing trouble for species beyond the spotted owl — frogs, for example, or other owls.

"I think they're really having much more of an impact than we realize,'' says Rocky Gutierrez, a professor of forest wildlife at the University of Minnesota.

Biologists need to know much more about barred owls, he says, perhaps identifying places where spotted owls might have some competitive advantage. If it comes time to shoot barred owls, marksmen could go where it will make the most difference.

If there's hope for the spotted owl, biologists suggest, it may be in some such barred owl-free zones.

Biologists say barred owls must, at some point, fill up the available landscape. And then what will be left for spotted owls?

(Michael Milstein is a staff writer for The Oregonian of Portland, Ore. He can be contacted at michaelmilstein(at)news.oregonian.com.)

Not for commercial use.  For educational and discussion purposes only.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; US: Oregon; US: Washington
KEYWORDS: animalrights; environment; esa; logging; spottedowl; whowho
 

Previous thread from the same reporter in May 2004:

Endangered [Spotted] Owl Now Threatened by Rival Species

 

1 posted on 08/03/2007 8:46:01 AM PDT by Incorrigible
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To: Incorrigible; TheSpottedOwl

I think you should see this;)

and this!
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1874492/posts

sod


2 posted on 08/03/2007 8:49:22 AM PDT by sodpoodle ( Despair - man's surrender. Laughter - God's redemption)
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To: Incorrigible

Why not a bounty on Barred Owls?


3 posted on 08/03/2007 8:49:25 AM PDT by weegee (NO THIRD TERM. America does not need another unconstitutional Clinton co-presidency.)
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To: Incorrigible

So, in order to save the spotted owl, we now get to ace the barred owl?

Ahem. This doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Say, how about if we arm the spotted owl and let it fend for itself?


4 posted on 08/03/2007 8:51:13 AM PDT by RexBeach
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To: Incorrigible
launch an assault on barred owls — shooting them
5 posted on 08/03/2007 8:51:16 AM PDT by Jeff Chandler (A man who will not defend himself does not deserve to be defended by others.)
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To: Incorrigible

How am I going to get my Spotted Owl Soup now?


6 posted on 08/03/2007 8:51:21 AM PDT by dfwgator (The University of Florida - Still Championship U)
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To: Incorrigible
So federal biologists, under a new owl recovery plan, want to launch an assault on barred owls — shooting them out of some patches of forest to see whether it helps spotted owls.

We have to destroy the owls in order to save the owls.

When are we going to get out of this quagmire of an owl civil war?

7 posted on 08/03/2007 8:52:34 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (May the heirs of Charles Martel and Jan Sobieski rise up again to defend Europe.)
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To: Incorrigible

I think we need to take immediate action and indict the barred owl for violating the Endangered Species Act. ;)


8 posted on 08/03/2007 8:52:57 AM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Wise men don't need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise." -- Tao Te Ching)
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To: RexBeach
Say, how about if we arm the spotted owl and let it fend for itself?

Barred Owls are lifetime members of the NRA and have class three federal gun licenses. They'll just gun down the spotted owls with full automatic fire if the shooting starts.

9 posted on 08/03/2007 8:54:33 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (May the heirs of Charles Martel and Jan Sobieski rise up again to defend Europe.)
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To: really

10 posted on 08/03/2007 8:55:18 AM PDT by evets (beer)
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To: Incorrigible

I spotted an owl, which started the whole world sighing,
But I didnt see that the owl was on me, oh no.

It started to fry, which started the whole world cringing,
Oh, if they’d only seen that the owl was in me.

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes,
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that they’d said.

‘Til it finally died, which started the whole world crying,
Oh, if Id only seen that the joke was on me.

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes,
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that they’d said.

‘til it finally died, which started the whole world crying,
Oh, if they’d only seen that the owl was in me.


11 posted on 08/03/2007 8:56:04 AM PDT by Red Badger (All I know about Minnesota, I learned from Garrison Keilor.............)
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To: Incorrigible

I thought these environmentalists believed in Darwin. ;-)


12 posted on 08/03/2007 8:58:25 AM PDT by rhombus
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which one tastes better I wonder.


13 posted on 08/03/2007 9:03:25 AM PDT by isom35
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To: dfwgator

Fight the barred owl for it.


14 posted on 08/03/2007 9:03:26 AM PDT by Old Professer (The critic writes with rapier pen, dips it twice, and writes again.)
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To: Incorrigible

15 posted on 08/03/2007 9:04:10 AM PDT by Vaquero (" an armed society is a polite society" Heinlein "MOLON LABE!" Leonidas of Sparta)
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To: Incorrigible

My sister works on the “save the spotted owl” state committee in Oregon. She told me once, Mother Nature sometimes just says no. It’s called evolution.


16 posted on 08/03/2007 9:05:47 AM PDT by Hi Heels (Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.)
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To: evets

LOL!

 

17 posted on 08/03/2007 9:10:12 AM PDT by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: Incorrigible
If there's hope for the spotted owl, biologists suggest, it may be in some such barred owl-free zones.

Why haven't they put of the signs yet?

18 posted on 08/03/2007 9:16:31 AM PDT by SampleMan (Islamic tolerance is practiced by killing you last.)
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To: Libertina; KentTrappedInLiberalSeattle; NurdlyPeon; RainMan; Maynerd; Bobsvainbabblings; ...
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Say WA? Evergreen State ping

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this ping list.

Ping sionnsar if you see a Washington state related thread.

19 posted on 08/03/2007 9:18:06 AM PDT by sionnsar (trad-anglican.faithweb.com |Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: SampleMan
The biologists should introduce a predator to control the barred owls that's another strategy always works out just as planned.
20 posted on 08/03/2007 9:23:08 AM PDT by Old North State
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To: Incorrigible
“”The spotted owl was really just a symbol for a much broader ecological and political debate,’’ Forsman says. “Regardless of what happens to the spotted owl, I don’t think that debate will change.”

Just like those who were supposedly working to save Sacco and Vanzetti revealed to Katherine Ann Porter that they didn’t want to save S&V, that they had to die for the cause.

Libs are demented.

21 posted on 08/03/2007 9:25:43 AM PDT by Ghost of Philip Marlowe (Liberals are blind. They are the dupes of Leftists who know exactly what they're doing.)
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To: Old North State

In the end they will discover that clear cutting is the only thing that will drive off the barred owls, and that the spotted owls love worms.

Clear cutting will be paid for by the government, but environmentalists will ensure that none of the lumber is sold.


22 posted on 08/03/2007 9:26:04 AM PDT by SampleMan (Islamic tolerance is practiced by killing you last.)
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To: rhombus

yeah what is with evolutionists who believe in saving owls and encouraging negative replacement birth rates for humans?


23 posted on 08/03/2007 9:29:06 AM PDT by ari-freedom (Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.)
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To: Incorrigible

Sounds like Barred Owls are superior to the Spotted Owl. Natural selection at work.


24 posted on 08/03/2007 9:34:42 AM PDT by Scotsman will be Free (11C - Indirect fire, infantry - High angle hell - We will bring you, FIRE)
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To: RexBeach
Say, how about if we arm the spotted owl and let it fend for itself?

Nice idea, but it won't work. The spotted owls are not good shots. The best they can hope to do is to wing the bad owls.

25 posted on 08/03/2007 9:43:07 AM PDT by 17th Miss Regt
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To: ari-freedom

I think this is the answer to your question: They HATE people, but all animals are virtuous because they have no free will(or something like that).

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But then, neither does the Endangered Species Act.

Man attempting to play God never works. We’re not perfect, but God is.

Ciao.


26 posted on 08/03/2007 9:49:01 AM PDT by RexBeach
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To: Incorrigible

I didn’t read every single word, but I read the start and did a good scan.

I’m a bit confused.

Where did the Barred Owl come from? They imply it shouldn’t be here, but never actually say that?

So was it human intervention (somebody released a bunch there) or just the Barred expanding? Or did Barreds move from 1 territory to another because of human development?


27 posted on 08/03/2007 9:57:55 AM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: Scotsman will be Free

We only like Survival of the Fittest when it was way in the past.

We think everything should be exactly as it is now.


28 posted on 08/03/2007 9:59:08 AM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: the OlLine Rebel
Or did Barreds move from 1 territory to another because of human development?

That's one theory that is suggested in the article.  Barred owls from from the east.

 

29 posted on 08/03/2007 10:03:20 AM PDT by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: Incorrigible
Spotted owls are vanishing inside Olympic National Park, where logging never disturbed them.

Another species doomed to extinction before we showed up and the left used it to destroy people's livelyhoods.

30 posted on 08/03/2007 10:08:39 AM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: Incorrigible; Carry_Okie
Yet another saga in the series of the U.S. Forest Service Biologists GONE WILD!
31 posted on 08/03/2007 10:11:01 AM PDT by bigfootbob
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To: Incorrigible

According to my “Birds of North America” book, the spotted owl is supposed to occupy a limited range in the California Sierras, also a fairly large area in the Colorado and New Mexico Rockies as well as up in Washington. The barred owl is supposed to be completely absent from those areas according to the book. So it would seem to me that the spotted owl, as a species, may not be in danger of complete extinction. Maybe more study should be put into those areas to help it survive, even if Washington loses out due to Nature taking its course.


32 posted on 08/03/2007 10:18:21 AM PDT by 19th LA Inf
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To: Incorrigible

But what is “the east”? The land bordering it to the east? Or the East Coast?


33 posted on 08/03/2007 10:18:42 AM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: 19th LA Inf

Noone ever talks about Spotted Owl outside the logging areas of the NW!

So we need to know if SO are CURRENTLY still in CO/NM area or if that’s just previous history.


34 posted on 08/03/2007 10:20:13 AM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: bigfootbob
What a crock of BS.
  1. The spotted owl didn't depend upon old growth at all.
  2. Logging was never the cause of their decline. In fact, thinning second growth helped the spotted owl because it stimulated the groundcovers that feed its food supply (mice) and provides better flyways for unobstructed hunting.
  3. The barred owl would have finished it off anyway.
  4. The crooked government "biologists" are dismayed when natural selection works as designed, not because it means the end of the spotted owl, but because it means the end of the money being spent so "save' it AND the end of their POWER to destroy people they witlessly despise and the GLORY they get from their peers for having done it.

35 posted on 08/03/2007 10:26:10 AM PDT by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by central planning.)
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To: Carry_Okie
Ya mean the whole old-growth, spotted owl thing was just more junk science??? I'm shocked, shocked, I tell ya!

BTW, more same-o, same-o is going on here. Goobermint "scientists" claim there is an endangered species at risk along the Front Range and therefore all growth must be stopped to "save" it. What is it? "Prebble's Mouse." What is it really? Common field mouse. Is it endangered? Not in the least.

So, predictably, the Goobermint is conducting an Inquisition "investigating" all who questioned it's junk science.

36 posted on 08/03/2007 10:34:08 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Carry_Okie

In the case of Olympic National Park, one could make a case for the spotted owl decline being the fault of the US Forest Service: they’re the geniuses who imported goats into the park, which have since overrun the northeast portion of the place, killing off native ground cover.

Species go extinct. It happens.


37 posted on 08/03/2007 10:36:24 AM PDT by IslandJeff (Jeremiah 2:14-22)
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To: Incorrigible

There is so much truth in this article concerning how liberals actually think. Scary that it actually got through the editors. Of course they didn’t all the irony in it, it went right over them.


38 posted on 08/03/2007 10:53:38 AM PDT by Secret Agent Man
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To: Incorrigible
The spotted owl is becoming extinct from a multitude of factors:
Because the Bush administration didn't allow more money to be spent upon bridge upgrading
because of the war in Iraq
Because the US didn't agree with the Kyoto accords
Because of fossil fuels and meat eaters
More are possible, few plausible
39 posted on 08/03/2007 11:05:14 AM PDT by vetvetdoug
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To: vetvetdoug

You forgot Katrina and the Minnesota bridge collapse.


40 posted on 08/03/2007 11:15:34 AM PDT by bigfootbob
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To: the OlLine Rebel
Where did the Barred Owl come from? They imply it shouldn’t be here, but never actually say that?

Here's the entry on Barred Owls from the Seattle Audubon Society. The Barred Owl may have expanded its range in the 20th century, as stated in Wikipedia, but I don't have confidence in Wiki or the enviros on this.




Barred Owl
41 posted on 08/03/2007 11:17:39 AM PDT by caveat emptor
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To: sodpoodle

LOL! Maybe I should change my screen name to TheBarredOwl?

Seriously, all the devastation to the logging industry, for what???? Once again, Mother Nature gives the humans the middle finger. Does this mean that they can revive logging now?

Occasionally we see Barn Owls. Those things are HUGE.


42 posted on 08/03/2007 11:31:01 AM PDT by TheSpottedOwl (If the families still ran Las Vegas, Harry Reid would be napping at the bottom of Hoover Dam)
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To: Incorrigible

Just more proof of the lunacy of radical environmentalists. I can’t believe the article actually said that MAN’s WESTWARD EXPANSION CREATED the forests that allowed the barred owl to move West. I always thought they blamed Man for DESTROYING the forests. LOL


43 posted on 08/03/2007 11:35:06 AM PDT by SolidRedState (I Love TEXAS!)
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It never fails ! Liberals are always proven wrong with the passage of time. Always. Too bad everyone has such short memories.


44 posted on 08/03/2007 11:36:09 AM PDT by svanni
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To: TheSpottedOwl

“”Maybe I should change my screen name to TheBarredOwl?””

At first - I thought you should - but as it stands now - you are protected. Think about being mistaken for a barfly!!!! That’ll never do;)


45 posted on 08/03/2007 11:38:25 AM PDT by sodpoodle ( Despair - man's surrender. Laughter - God's redemption)
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