Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shooting Owls to Save Owls

Spotted Owl from Wikimedia
Peter Kareiva * recently wrote, "A famous person once observed that the signature of a civilized mind is the ability to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time."  A thought provoking editorial in the Wall Street Journal will test this premise for those of us who are environmentally concerned.

Environmentalist Wisdom: Shoot One Owl to Save The Other takes a look at the spotted owl debate from the business side.  Even with a firmly held opinion, it is always worthwhile to understand the other side of any controversial subject. 

To quote the core issue:
"The final Revised Recovery Plan, issued on June 30, calls for expanding protections for owls beyond the nearly six million acres currently set aside. Ironically, it also calls for the "removal"—i.e., shooting—of hundreds of barred owls, a larger and more adaptable rival of the spotted owl that competes for prey and nesting sites, and sometimes breeds with the spotted owl."
The editorial highlights the costs, in both the implementation of protection and the revenue lost in protecting the timbered habitat.  The spotted owl debate is a closeup view of a larger conundrum, how much to spend protecting species that may eventually be a lost cause.  Another example would be trying to restore the prairie chicken to the small disconnected patches of residual prairie in Missouri.

I would suggest that you take a deep breath and read Environmentalist Wisdom: Shoot One Owl to Save The Other with an open mind, then put it on the other side of the "environmental scale of thought" and hold both thoughts for a few minutes. It will only cause a small headache.

* Peter Kareiva is chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, writing in the blog at
Extensive information on the spotted owl is at Wikipedia.


  1. This kind of rationale gets my goat. How did this owl get into this predicament in the first place? I don't think the barred owl should have to bear the brunt of bad decision making. Expand the alloted land if need be. Encourage farmers and landowners to preserve areas for predator and prey alike...perhaps a tax incentive?

  2. very nice ....
    its very different and we get many known things from it..

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