Killing Barred Owls

Killing Barred Owls
Killing Barred Owls has already begun. This beautiful, successful raptor with the great dark eyes, a North American native species federally protected under the United States Migratory Treaty Act, has been under United States and private citizen deadly assault since 2004.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service worked out a clever scheme that allowed the Green Diamond Resources biologist, Lowell Diller, to kill Barred Owls (BO) on the timber company’s private lands so that the USFWS would not have to process an environmental impact statement (EIS), and the California Academy of Science’s Jack Dumbacher could obtain museum specimens to fill his taxidermy cabinets.

Environmental Impact Statements are required of all federal agencies by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 when said agencies are seeking a federal permit for any action covered under the NEPA.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act requires “take” permits for the killing of birds under its aegis - Barred Owls being so protected. The United States Court of Appeals decision of Humane Society vs. Glickman (D.C. Circuit, 2000) mandated that since the MBTA is an international treaty, all federal agencies must meet permit requirements. And, of course, this brings us back full circle to the fact that in order to get a permit, the NEPA requires all federal agencies to submit an EIS.

However, the state (California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) and federal (USFWS) agencies involved issued permits to the California Academy of Science (CAS) for the purpose of museum collections - allegedly in 2004. Brian Woodbridge, USFWS, has been eager to remind us all that it was his idea in 2004 to propose the USFWS partnering with the CAS and the timber company, Green Diamond Resources for the purpose of killing Barred Owls - an action calculated to sidestep the NEPA-mandated Environmental Impact Statement.

To color the proposal with the thinnest possible veneer of science, the Sustainable Ecosystem Institute (SEI - a think tank with a preponderance of government and lumber company ‘partners’) met in 2005 and issued a paper signed by only seven scientists. They were from the US Forest Service, the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Audubon, USGS, Green Diamond Resources, Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the University of Minnesota. The paper recommended taking measures against the Barred Owl in order to save the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO), and the preferred method was shooting them.

The shotgun killing of Barred Owls was reported in 2006. From 2009 though 2012, Lowell Diller, the Green Diamond Resource company biologist, reported killing 73 Barred Owls under the CAS permit. Two of the killing sites were in the Klamath National Forest. The rest were on Green Diamond Resource Co. property.

So what happened in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008? Were permits issued? To whom? By whom? For what purpose? How many owls killed?

A simple permitting request by the California Academy of Science went from 20 museum specimens to over a minimum of 100 Barred Owls killed due to the orchestration of the USFWS in their successful attempt to manipulate the federal process. The USFWS has variously been quoted as calling the killings “experimental” and a “pilot program”. They, through Brian Woodbridge, openly proclaimed their involvement in this "experimental" killing.

And what of this “experiment”? Well, more than one-half of the Barred Owls killed have already been replaced by more Barred Owls. In the recent Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) petition asking that the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) be listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act, the petitioners correctly stated” is difficult to determine whether the NSO no longer occupies a site, or whether they may still be present but not detected.” Not only do the scientists not know about the Spotted Owl’s population status, but the Barred Owl continues its expansion. This is a pilot program which failed, and which is being expanded to fail on a grander scale - to the funereal tune of thousands of Barred Owls.

In a 2011 Raptor Symposium, Lowell Diller et al, reported that “Contrary to early misperceptions (sic), Barred Owls did not invade the Northwest because they can exploit highly fragmented forests... the pattern... has shown that they tend to first occupy lower elevations of old growth forests,... ” Spotted Owls prefer the higher elevations.

A blood parasite study on Spotted Owls (Ishak et al, 2008) stated that Barred Owls and NSOs have “dissimilar habitat preferences”. That same study, by the way, tried mightily to connect the BOs to the significant disease and parasite problems of Spotted Owls- and failed utterly.

This is not a Barred Owl invasion. This is a natural range expansion. No humans dumped these birds into a foreign habitat. Barred Owls are doing what Barred Owls do. They are moving about and spreading out just as all birds do - including the Northern Spotted Owls who Diller has recently documented expanding into new territory in the Mad River basin, independent of any known pressures - Barred Owl or otherwise.

We are now in August of 2013 - the month the USFWS has declared it will release the EIS that it should have prepared nine years ago. They must still obtain a permit from the Pacific Region 1 office in Portland, Oregon. That number is 503-872-2715 and the email address is The Division of Migratory Bird Management determines permit policy. Their number is 703-358-1714.

For more information, please see my article at entitled “Barred Owl Debacle”.

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