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State starts spotted owl hearings

May 25th, 2006

(Olympia, WA) - The first of four public hearings on the spotted owl start today. The state Forest Practices Board will hold four public hearings around the state on proposed amendments intended to expand protection for the owl. The first hearing is in Kelso. Three others will be held during the first two weeks of June in Forks, Yakima and Mt. Vernon.

The board could make a decision on August Ninth to make the rules permanent. One rule imposes a temporary moratorium on the practice of "decertifying" spotted owl sites until June 30th 2007. That's when a federal recovery plan for the owl is expected.

The state has opened thousands of acres of forest lands to logging by decertifying so-called "owl circles," a radius of nearly two miles around sites where owls have been found.

Wildlife conservationists blame decades of clearcutting in old-growth forests, the owls' primary habitat, for the birds' decline. Timber industry officials say logging can't be blamed for the owl's current predicament, citing the barred owl, loss of habitat due to wildfires and harvesting, and the West Nile virus as contributors to the decline.



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