They hold hearings but... Do they Listen?

by Sherrie Bond

On May 21, Natural Resources Chairman, Representative Doc Hastings (WA-04) and Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA-03) held a joint Congressional Field Hearing in Longview regarding the impacts of federal forest policies on communities, the economic impact and wildlife management; critical topics that are a matter of life and death to timber providing communities in the Pacific Northwest.

It is a well-known fact that rural communities and their economies have suffered since the infusion of the Northern Spotted Owl into the equation of forest management. Communities have been literally devastated by the curtailment of timber harvest on federal lands as a result of habitat conservation areas set aside for the owl. Frighteningly, new policies being discussed include additional critical habitat designations, which fail to address the real threats to the owl, but will be the death knell of timber towns throughout the West. A comparable situation we witnessed in the first go around with the owl and from which many timber communities never recovered!

In reviewing the Department of Interior’s current-final proposed federal forest policies and submissions to the DOI by “researchers” it is obvious they are bent on an absolute lock-down of federal forests to harvest, management and stewardship; I say “current-final” with my tongue in cheek as we began the Northern Spotted Owl final plan as a draft document in December 1992!! Cruising through research submitted by Oregon State University Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, I was subjected to reading “crap” foisted on the Department of Interior in an effort to capture more old-growth timberland. An example of OSU’s research indicated there was a strong, negative association between the Barred Owl and the Spotted Owl. Really? I’d have to agree that being eaten by the Barred Owl would be a negative association! The brainiacs also concluded increases of extinction where there were decreases in old growth forests to substantiate their position on further restriction of logging within the National Forests. (Those would be the forests belonging to everyone, not just the Ecology Department at OSU!)
One of the ideas to stabilize the population of the Spotted Owl is to kill the Barred Owl outright or trap and relocate them. Consideration has to be given to where the relocation will take place as well as the “stress level” of the birds being either shot or moved. The proposal is to play recordings to attract the Barred Owls into range of either removal proposal. (Like they really want to hear Ricky Martin‘s version of Livin’ la Vida Loca). In all of the reports and studies I read with regard to the Barred versus the Spotted Owls the “researchers” (and I use that term very loosely) provide only statements saying, “…the population of Barred Owls has increased considerably…” “…the Spotted Owl population has decreased …” or (get this) “…the Spotted Owl population decreases considerably when the Barred Owl population rises…” or “… the Spotted Owl population appears to increase when there are no Barred Owls present…” Too funny! I’m reminded of Spotted Owl hearings held in the early 90s at the University of Washington where so-called experts from Fish and Wildlife professed the Spotted Owl population was diminishing. When I asked how many owls there were currently, Joe Expert says, “we don’t know”. Well how many were there? Joe says, “we don’t know”. So I asked when will you know if you have stabilized the population? And the answer (all together now) “we don’t know!” It’s more of that same faux-scientific B.S. that is spinning the timber industry and its workers into another abyss. One so-called researcher went out on a limb so far as to say the Barred Owl outnumbers the Spotted Owl 4 to 1 (but admits not knowing what the actual population IS)! Well get this buddy, the hard working loggers, the log haulers, the mill workers, the timber companies, the families and communities in which these workers live outnumber both the Spotted Owl and the Barred Owl tenfold, but you don’t give a rusty-fig about that, do you? You goal in life is to eliminate timber harvest forever and it doesn’t matter who gets crushed in your rush to your own skewed perception of “justice for the species”.

This is why we must continue to be vigilant and protect our communities from those who have no understanding of harvest and regeneration.

They know nothing of stewardship or maintenance of timbered lands. Even more tragically, they don’t care one whit about the economic collapse they cause by creating a panic about the wellbeing of the owl. When did humans slip so far down the food chain that we are viewed as disposable?

While you didn’t have the opportunity to attend the Natural Resource Hearing on May 21st, you do still have time to send in testimony that will be included in the record. (I suggest even if you miss the deadline of the end of May, please send your congressional delegates comments and insight anyway.)

The address is:
Committee on Natural ­Resources
United States House of ­Representatives
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: 202-225-2761
or Fax: 202-225-5929

You may also reach Deputy District Director, Shari Hildreth, at the office of Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler by calling 360-695-6292 or by email at shari.hildreth@mail.house.gov; she will be happy to pass your concerns and comments along. And to those who did attend the Hearing, thank you.

(Sherrie Bond serves as Director of the Northwest Log Truckers’ Cooperative. She can be reached via email at ohsee@aol.com