For no reason I know of, the thought of endangered species came to mind on Tuesday morning. Then I saw this article and started wondering about synchronicity. I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but the entire story is so improbable that it seems like an April Fool’s Day joke. I don’t even know whether to laugh or cry or howl in rage.
Back in the late 80s/early 90s, the Great Spotted Owl provided employment for way too many environmental activists and caused unemployment for way too many loggers. We were assured that if the logging industry would stop cutting down trees, the Spotted Owls would come back and everything would be fine. That didn’t happen.
Replacing junk science with real research, we now realize that the Spotted Owl decline had nothing to do with logging and everything to do with its raptor rival, the Barred Owl. It’s bigger and stronger and not so picky about where it nests and hunts. The Spotted Owl can’t compete, so it continues to die out.
The reasonable response to this news by the environmental activists would be, “Oh, we’re sorry, we were mistaken. Go ahead and start logging again, and include those 8.6 million acres that we took away from you through the courts.” Ha-ha, silly person, you’re expecting a reasonable response? Think again, and you would never in a million years come up with the real story.
The real story is that there are plans in the works to save the Spotted Owl at any cost, including killing barred owls. This makes absolutely no sense. It’s not like trying to eradicate zebra mussels or protect against Med Flies. The Barred Owl is native to North America, and it is not a pest. Basically they are planning to kill big, strong, beautiful birds who play a vital role in our ecosystem. The government report calls it barred owl management. I call it needless slaughter and animal cruelty.
Here’s an alternative plan: let nature take its course. Back off, get out of the forest, let the Spotted Owl and the Barred Owl compete naturally, and may the best raptor win. According to the report, if we take no further action, we will be saving $147.1 million over 30 years that could better be spent on maintaining bridges or upgrading the national power grid (or building bullet trains). It’s apparent that the Spotted Owls are going to become extinct anyway, because they can’t compete. Hey, it’s survival of the fittest, right?
This brings me back to the point of my initial thoughts on Tuesday. What is the big problem with the extinction of a species like the Great Spotted Owl? If it’s replaced by its bigger, stronger cousin the Barred Owl in a process of natural selection, then the forest becomes a better place with not so many rodent pests running around. How many billion dollars will we spend to keep this bird (or any of several oddly-shaped snails or weirdly-colored mice) alive?