By Dan Shapley
Forests set aside for spotted owl may be cut by 22%
No species has been more emblematic of the controversies surrounding the Endangered Species Act than the Northern spotted owl, which loves the same big tall trees of the Pacific Northwest that loggers and the rural communities that rely on logging income do. Now, 15 years after a tenuous compromise set aside 24.5 million acres in three states where logging was limited to protect the owl, the Bush Administration has proposed removing some protections for 22% of that land. At the heart of the issue is the elusive balance between economic development and species preservation. Endangered species are championed, often, as a means to protecting larger habitats that have various values from an environmental standpoint -- drinking water production and carbon sequestration, for instance, in addition to the rich biodiversity that may one day yield new medicines and products. The limits of the law, and the often legitimate concerns of communities that make a living off the land, butt heads when species like the spotted owl are used as proxies for larger issues of wild land conservation, according to a story in the June 26 Los Angeles Times.