12 June 2007

Bush administration calls for cutting spotted owl habitat

Might as well call for cuts in log and lumber prices.

The housing (read framing lumber) market is in the tank, interest rates are on the rise and lumber mills have cut production all over the northwest and beyond. The last two weeks Random Lengths' Framing Lumber Composite Price made some incremental moves off the bottom after first quarter production levels were down 17% relative to the same period last year. In this context mandating increased logging on federal lands only ensures that western framing lumber prices, and log prices, will stay low for private landowners as well as federal forest managers. Of course below cost log sales could subsidize struggling lumber mills, but as free market advocates will tell you, such subsidies will only distort the market (and create windfall profits) and delay a rational drop in production.

It will offer little protection to struggling rural communities as mill efficiencies rise and markets fall.

Humboldt forest managers should take note that green Doug fir managed to fall an additional couple of bucks to $240 a thousand board feet in spite of the general uptick off the bottom.

Bush administration calls for cutting spotted owl habitat
June 12, 2007

GRANTS PASS, Oregon -- The Bush administration Tuesday proposed cutting 1.5 million acres (610,000 hectares) from Northwest forests considered critical to the survival of the northern spotted owl, reopening the 1990s battle between timber production and wildlife habitat on public lands...

Recent research has noted that while old growth forests suitable for owl habitat have increased, owl numbers have continued to decline, and that the owl faces a new threat from a cousin, the barred owl, that has been invading its territory.

The proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was published in the Federal Register. It calls for cutting critical habitat for the owl from the 6.9 million acres (2.79 million hectares) designated in 1992 to 5.4 million acres (2.19 million hectares)...

Under court order, timber production on national forests in Washington, Oregon and Northern California was cut by more than 80 percent in 1994 to protect owl habitat, contributing to mill closures and job losses that were particularly painful in rural areas with no other industry. Since then, the Northwest economy has turned to other industries, particularly high-tech, retirement and tourism, but some rural areas continue to struggle.

Since taking office in 2000, the Bush administration has been working to change the Northwest Forest Plan to allow more timber production, but has been largely stymied by court rulings, including several that tossed out plans to log in critical habitat for the owl.

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