Anonymous asked: Hi, Michael - I noticed your post on “Great News! The DOI incorporates adaptation!” I work for a DOI agency, and am curious about the FWS approach to recovery of the northern spotted owl - this recovery plan includes a proposal to consider shooting barred owls based on a lot of assumptions, and will release a draft EIS on a research proposal this spring to do just that. I am trying to figure out how killing one species that may be expanding due to climate change is an “adaptation strategy” - it seems about as productive as killing California sea lions in the Columbia River because they kill salmon - that, by the way congregate at the base of dams that we built. Thoughts? Do a google search and you will find a few articles and public response to the proposal. I appreciate your optimism, but I am not so sure these agencies even know what adaptive management is. or means.
Thank you for the kind words and especially your confidence in my ability to respond to such a controversial issue. The issue, as I understand it, is whether the barred owl should be controlled as an invasive species in order to protect the spotted owl, an endangered species?
Spotted owl chicks.
The issue did get a lot of attention in 2009, when mainstream environmental media picked up the story. For example, Smithsonian Magazine wrote about it over two years ago, in an excellent piece called, The Spotted Owl’s New Nemesis; An epic battle between environmentalists and loggers left much of the spotted owl’s habitat protected. Now the celebrity species faces a new threat—a tougher owl.
The (rather meandering) article describes the history of the spotted owl, and tries to position the bird as the ultimate yardstick for measuring endangered species management and policy.
The spotted owl has been controversial for decades, and management of the species has largely failed,
…northern spotted owls continue to move ever closer to extinction. Populations have been virtually eliminated in British Columbia, are declining at a rate of 7%/ year in Washington and are declining at an annual rate of 4% over their entire range. Source
Audubon Portland reluctantly supports the EIS to manage the barred owl,
…the highest priority must be placed on preventing the extinction of species even to the degree that this entails lethal control of other protected species. To that degree we support moving forward with the EIS, but will not take a final position on lethal control until we are able to fully evaluate the different options presented. We must see that the fundamental cause of spotted owl populations declines, loss of critical habitat, is being adequately addressed, that lethal control of barredowls, in addition to habitat protection and restoration, is a necessary condition for spotted owls to recover, and that such an approach is practicable and will substantially improve the spotted owl’s chances for survival.
That’s the background. With respect to whether this falls under the category of a climate adaptation adds a new layer of paradox. If the barred owl is indeed migrating to other areas due to climate change, the DOI and the FWS must show this is the case in the EIS. If they do, that will open the doors for many, many lawsuits against those that caused climate change in the first place. My understanding is that causal lawsuits are nearly a requirement of the ESA (I can’t be sure, at this point).
I need more information. It seems like the DOI/FWS can manage the barred owl under traditional invasive species management tools in order to protect an endangered species. In their EIS, they have to show that the owl did migrate and therefore causes harm to the spotted owl, but (I believe) not the reason why it migrated.
Back to you - does the EIS mention climate change as a cause for the barred owl to migrate?
Thanks for the thought provoking question!