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The federal government is upset that spotted owls are disappearing. So they’re going to kill 3,600 barred owls to even the score.
The Pacific Northwest has been dealing with the caprices of government for decades when it comes to the northern spotted owl. Twenty-three years ago, environmentalists noticed that the population of the birds was decreasing faster than they liked.
The owl-huggers successfully lobbied the federal government to list the bird as an endangered species and drastically reduced the logging they had blamed for the owl’s predicament. Problem solved!
After two decades free of evil, rapacious loggers, not only are spotted owls not coming back, their population continues to shrink. But instead of thinking, “perhaps evolution is trying to tell us something,” meddling bureaucrats have found a new bogeyman. More accurately, a bogey-owl.
As spotted owls have struggled in the vast forests of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, barred owls are living large. This breed isn’t as picky with their food and is slightly larger and more aggressive, leading them to take over newly emptied habitats.
Seems like a textbook example of natural selection, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to step in and play Darwin. Since it’s too expensive and time-consuming to trap the barred owls, they have decided to kill them.
The agency expects the culling of 3,600 barred owls to solve the problem once and for all. "We're going to look at all potential opportunities, but the most humane way to do it is to shoot them,” Biologist Robin Bown said, without a hint of sarcasm.
“It's a difficult concept, to say I'm going to kill one species to try to save another species,” Bown added. “But it's also something that, in some cases, we need to do."
This decision obviously has upset many animal lovers, environmentalists, and even other bureaucrats at competing federal agencies. Biologist Eric Forsman of the U.S. Forest Service says the proposed final solution isn’t so final.
"To try to control barred owls across a large region would be incredibly expensive and you'd have to keep doing it forever because if you ever stopped, they would begin to come back into those areas,” Forsman said.
The Forest Service scientist adds, “I think all we can really do is try our best to provide [a] habitat for spotted owls and in the long run, we're just going to have to let the two species work it out.”
Finally, a reasonable idea.
To save the spotted owl, the government killed the livelihood of thousands of American loggers. Now that the humans have suffered, the government is literally turning their guns on other owls.
As with most well intentioned programs, government would be better off just allowing nature to run its course. But then tens of thousands of bureaucrats couldn't justify their salaries. Sorry barred owls; maybe you should hire a good lobbyist.
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.