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$4.6-Million Study Seeks Way for Owls, Foresters to Coexist

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Scientists are embarking on a $4.6-million study in southern Oregon to see if foresters can cut timber without destroying the habitat of the northern spotted owl.

“We hope to get much closer to some real answers of what are indeed the owl’s habitat needs,” Dean Bibles, Oregon and Washington state director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said.

Researchers will take detailed measurements of existing stands to understand what makes them attractive to owls, develop logging methods to reproduce those characteristics, and develop computer models that can estimate timber yields, said John C. Tappeiner, a silviculturist at Oregon State University.

The study will be conducted over the next 10 years on the BLM’s Medford District, neighboring private lands and much of the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests. A research partnership between the BLM and Oregon State that is based at the university’s College of Forestry in Corvallis is funding the work.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the owl a threatened species last year because of heavy logging in the old-growth forests where it lives.

Scientists have said the owl needs the protection from predators that is provided by a forest with various levels of canopy, large trees with cavities for nesting and downed logs that provide habitat for the rodents that owls feed on. The features are generally found in old-growth forests that haven’t been logged, though they have been shaped by fire and storms.

Plans for preserving habitat for the owl have concentrated on creating large unbroken blocks of old growth.

Covering about 3 million acres, the study area has been logged over for decades, leaving a patchwork of clear cuts, partial cuts, old growth and second growth that has also been shaped by fires, windstorms and insect infestations.

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