They Shoot Owls, Don’t They?


Some years ago, I wrote a piece in these pages about the infamous spotted owl. Under the misguided Endangered Species Act of 1990, the spotted owl was declared "endangered" (meaning, of course, "endangered by man"). As a result, the logging industry in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California was severely curtailed to “save” the bird. Tens of thousands of jobs were killed off, rates of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide spiked in the logging communities where formerly productive and proud loggers were reduced to living off the dole. Communities died.

But it turned out that the primary reason the spotted owl was dying was that another owl — the barred owl! — was moving in and taking over the wimpy spotted owl’s niche.

In short, it was natural biological evolution at work. As I noted then, 90% of all species that ever existed on this planet went extinct before hominids ever existed.

You would have expected hearings on this. You would have expected Congress investigate the bureaucrats who made a cold-blooded decision to terminate the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of victims. You would have expected that Congress would then grill the biologists who decided that it was the timber industry and not ordinary evolution that was to blame for the spotted owl’s plight. You would have expected panels of economists to testify about the cost to society of this stupid mistake.

But government almost never investigates its own mistakes and frauds. It prefers to investigate mistakes and frauds by private industry.

Indeed, when government makes a policy mistake, not only doesn’t it investigate itself, it just keeps pushing the policy further. A recent dispatch illustrates this with complete clarity.

The AP reports that even after shutting down much of the logging industry, the spotted owl continues its die-off. Its population in the Continental US has fallen by 40% in 25 years. The more aggressive barred owl just keeps taking over.

So the Obama administration, led by hardcore environmentalist Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, has taken the next “scientific” step.

It has ordered the shooting of barred owls!

Yes, in the name of wildlife preservation, the Interior Department will start slaughtering wildlife! I mean, Kafka couldn’t have dreamt up this daffiness.

So the hard-ass, kick-ass barred owls are facing execution for daring to win the evolutionary race with the sensitive, limp-taloned spotted owls. No doubt Darwin is spinning in his grave.

Since these damned rodent-munchers are spread over 24 million acres of forest, we are talking about a hell of a lot of shooting.

What is even more absurd is that this administration — which intends to gun down the gangsta owl — is totally anti-gun.

Maybe Obama and Salazar could contact the Mexican drug lords whom Ken Holder's Justice Department helped to arm, and have them do the killings. It might be enough for Salazar to spread the rumor that the barred owls are importing drugs, thus challenging the hoodlums in their own ecological niche.

Just a thought.

Share This



The AP reports "even after shutting down much of the logging industry".

Shutting down much of the logging industry? How sure are you of this conclusion?

I'm far from versed on this, but I have noticed no shortage in wood products. Have seen no evidence of shutting down of the logging industry. In fact, I see logging trucks running down my road everyday, as usual, for the last 20 years.

Could it be this is just hyperbole to overexagerate a routine effect of a government we all know, and want, to limit others'(not ours) property rights?

Gary Jason

Your anecdotal evidence doesn't really prove your point. When the government ruled that the spotted owl was an endangered species, the effect was that logging companies had to cut back 40% of the cutting of old growth timber WITHIN A 1.3 MILE RADIUS of ANY spotted owl nest. Do the math...yes, the effect was to dramatically curtail timber operations, to this day.

So if it turns out that the spotted owl is disappearing because of normal biological replacement in its niche by another similar but more well adapted life form, that is huge news.

It means that the government massively violated peoples' property rights for no good reason. That to me is not an "overexaggeration".

The fact that you, personally, have not noticed a shortage of products made of wood doesn't mean anything other than the restriction on domestic wood production results in more wood having to be imported from abroad.


Well, then I have to ask..Where are these spotted owl nests? Certainly nowhere near the forest of Appalachia, with which I'm familar. The GP mill at the bottom of my mountain is running 3 shifts 7 days a week. Is that 40% of the total Earth's old forest logging? Please be specific. Generalizations are of no help.

I'm sure there is an oppression, somewhere here. But be honest about it. Say this is primarily an oppression to the northwest, or whatever. Don't say it has "shut down logging" when that is only true of a small area of the Earth. It's best to be honest.

Then, we can fight intrusions on honest terms. Rather than have to explain what we said early was true of this, or that, and then backtrack wasting valuable effort.

Gary Jason

Ir you would kindly re-read the first paragraph of my article, you will see that I make it clear that this govermental action hit the logging industry in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. That's where the Spotted Owl nests are (or were). Not Appalachia, where you happen to live.

But it is not a "small area of the Earth"--it is a big area of the United States, which is what we are talking about.

Matty Ice

Yes, it almost seems like "Visitor" is being intentionally obtuse; which is no way to hold a debate. Also, renders his/her plea for an honest dialogue w/factual information kind of ironic, no?

paul thiel

As someone has said before in this space: you couldn't make this stuff up (because as fiction it is too unrealistic).

© Copyright 2020 Liberty Foundation. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed in Liberty are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Liberty Foundation.

All letters to the editor are assumed to be for publication unless otherwise indicated.