Logging near Olympia delayed
Gordon; The News Tribune
Olympia, WA - The Department of Natural Resources will postpone logging
on between 14,000 and 15,000 acres of prime spotted owl habitat southwest
of Olympia until at least 2007, spokesman Todd Myers said.
The delay is a key element of an agreement with the state Department
of Fish and Wildlife to map out a way to manage 35,000 acres of publicly
owned Southwest Washington forests for both owls and timber.
"With this agreement, we hopefully can move beyond politics toward
good science," said Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland. He runs
the Natural Resources Department, which manages 2.1 million acres
of forest statewide.
The agreement to create a conservation-oriented landscape management
plan resolves a dispute between the departments that surfaced in 2001.
That's when officials of the Department of Fish and Wildlife objected
to Natural Resource plans to dissolve logging restrictions. Sutherland's
predecessor, Jennifer Belcher, had set the limits to protect owls
in Southwest Washington.
"We had no legal leverage," said John Mankowski, environmental
policy director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. "This
is an obvious win for us."
Spotted owls have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species
Act since 1990.
In 1996, Natural Resources adopted a federally approved habitat conservation
plan, which allows it to continue to harvest timber while conserving
habitat for the owls and other imperiled species.
The habitat plan governs management of 1.2 million acres of forests.
But it does nothing to sustain owls in Southwest Washington, even
though biologists say the region comprises about 30 percent of the
Two years ago, after Sutherland took office, his key administrators
insisted that the habitat plan provided sufficient protection for
owls and proposed to set aside Belcher's rules.
Under the new agreement, the two departments will work together, and
with other landowners, to develop a regional plan to conserve owl
habitat, officials said.
In the meantime, the Natural Resources Department may thin some so-called
owl circles that were previously off-limits to logging. The goal will
be to create new habitat suitable for the owl, Myers said.
Dave Werntz, science director of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance,
an environmental advocacy group, called the agreement positive. "It
certainly is a change for the state Department of Natural Resources
to acknowledge that their lands have a role in the conservation of
endangered wildlife," he said.
However, he said he is not convinced that sufficient lands have been
set aside and that collaboration between the state agencies and private
landowners will work.
Spotted owls inhabit old-growth forests, only remnants of which remain
in Southwest Washington. No one knows how many spotted owls live in
this state. A 1999 analysis suggested their numbers were dropping
by 4 percent annually. Earlier scientific surveys identified 1,000
Washington sites where biologists found owls or believe they once
Susan Gordon: 253-597-8756