WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says habitat protection in old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest will benefit the threatened northern spotted owl.
But while making the recommendation, the service is also proposing management standards that could allow logging of owl habitat in forests east of the Cascades, the American Bird Conservancy said Tuesday.
Still, the group said, the federal move is a welcome one in the battle to save the owls and their habitat.
“The increase in the amount of old-growth forest designated as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl is a triumph of sound science,” Steve Holmer, the conservancy’s senior policy adviser, said.
“Protecting the owl’s old-growth forest habitat will also help communities and the nation by preserving a world-class tourism destination, a sustainable recreation economy, and a source of clean drinking water for millions of people.”
But the decision on logging is a concern, he said.
“On the other hand, the service’s plan to weaken forest protections east of the Cascade Mountains could open the door to extensive logging in owl habitat before we know whether it is beneficial,” he said.
“We’d like to see research on small-scale thinning projects before the whole landscape is subjected to these treatments.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service said a draft critical habitat designation is now open for public comment.