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Owls and Discourse


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As a local biologist, I read with interest both the article on Phil Detrich ("The Biocrat," March 18) and Felice Pace's letter ("Good Intentions," March 25) concerning the article and the success -- or lack thereof -- of conservation efforts of natural resources in the region. I feel compelled to write and comment on Mr. Pace's letter partly because I am familiar with spotted owl issues, and partly because he states "Is this a 'success'? Let the readers judge." Based on the information provided by Mr. Pace in the previous paragraph, it would be difficult for most readers to make an informed decision.

Mr. Pace attempts to summarize the effects of a Habitat Conservation Plan and authorized "takes" on the spotted owl population on Green Diamond Resources lands. His letter indicates that no more than eight pairs of spotted owls remain on GDR lands, and gives the impression that there must be more barred owls now than spotted owls. The reality is that more spotted owls than barred owls still live on GDR lands, and it is way more than eight pairs.

Furthermore, Mr. Pace writes about "mitigation for competition from barred owls, which favor the patchwork of clearcuts, plantations and open forests created by GDR logging." This provides two more misrepresentations: 1) that barred owls prefer cut-over land to mature forest and 2) that GDR is responsible for the competition from barred owls. While the second point may be a result of summarizing several complicated issues into one sentence, the first point ignores the fact that many barred owls occur on Redwood National Park lands and may outnumber spotted owls there. Barred owls use a wider range of habitats than spotted owls do, but in my experience they often select the same mature forest stands that spotted owls use. Barred owls appear to be moving into the region whether timber harvesting is occurring or not, and it is difficult to determine why or the outcome of their competition with spotted owls. To ask readers to make a judgment based on such misleading information is, to me, an egregious journalistic trick.

As Mr. Pace noted, the original article gave some interesting perspectives on several regional issues, none of which are easy to describe adequately in a single article. It is even more difficult to give adequate information in a short letter on conservation issues such that readers can make a good judgment on "success" of conservation efforts. Journalistic letters or articles should rather stimulate thought and further conversation on conservation issues. I do agree with Mr. Pace when he says that "private property owners have a social and moral responsibility to take care of the species which were residents on the land before them." I am not making any claims about whether the Babbitt/Clinton ESA policy that Mr. Pace refers to is either a good or bad approach; I will say that the responsibilities of private property owners is an important topic for our society to continue to discuss, as well as our responsibilities as public land owners. The same concept should apply to how various crops are grown in the region, another popular topic in the local media.

I encourage readers to search out additional information on conservation issues they are interested in, discuss them with others and then ask more questions before making conclusions and judging our "success" at conservation efforts on both public and private lands.

Peter Carlson, Salyer

Sweet Spot: Peter Carlson wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.


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