More than 250,000 acres of Sierra Nevada forest land burned in the 2013 Rim Fire is turning out to be pretty good habitat for California spotted owls, and a group of wildlife protection organizations is asking the U.S. Forest Service to rethink plans to log the burned areas.
In the spring and summer of this year, USFS biologists found 33 breeding pairs of the diminutive owls in forests burned by the Rim Fire, along with six single owls. Most of the owls found were on land slated for salvage logging in the USFS’s “Rim Fire Recovery” Project. The logging project would take out trees on about 30,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest salvage logging operations in USFS history.
USFS has long held that forest fires threaten owls, and that salvage logging is necessary to encourage regrowth of healthy trees that provide owl habitat. But in a letter sent to USFS on Thursday, the groups are saying USFS’s position is based on obsolete science, and that spotted owls may actually prefer burned forests for hunting….
The California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) is one of three subspecies of spotted owl that lives in conifer forests of the West. Its close relative the northern spotted owl achieved a great deal of press attention in the 1990s during conflicts over logging in old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Northern spotted owls range from Marin County northward to British Columbia, while the California spotted owl’s territory runs from the southern Cascades southward through the Sierra Nevada, with a few isolated populations in the Coast Ranges south of San Francisco Bay.
A third subspecies, the Mexican spotted owl, ranges from the Rocky Mountains in Utah to central Mexico. Both the northern and Mexican subspecies are listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Despite several attempts to add the California spotted owl to the ESA list as well, it enjoys no such protection. The USFS does regard the California spotted owl as a “Sensitive Species,” however, and is at least in theory committed to protect the subspecies wherever possible.
(via ReWild | KCET)
The Military Macaw probably got its name from the military personnel who first imported the birds to Europe as pets. In the wild, this parrot occurs in three subspecies throughout a large but fragmented range extending from Mexico to Argentina.
Like the Great Green, Blue-throated, and Lear’s Macaws, these beautiful and intelligent parrots are popular cage birds, widely captured for the pet trade within their home countries. Another major threat to these macaws is habitat loss, caused mainly by deforestation for agriculture and settlement.
Like other parrots, Military Macaws are quite noisy; their raucous calls and shrieks can be heard far and wide as flocks travel between roosts, nests, and feeding sites. Favored foraging areas are the highest outer branches of trees, where these macaws forage for fruits and nuts. They nest in tree cavities and on high cliff faces. Once mated, pairs stay together for life.
ABC recently helped to protect additional acreage at Ecuador’s Narupa Reserve to protect the Military Macaw and other threatened resident and migrant bird species, including the Cerulean Warbler. Other migrants seen here include Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Swainson’s Thrush.
ABC’s Benjamin Skolnik calls the reserve expansion “just the beginning of what we aim to be a much larger effort to consolidate forests for wintering warblers and other migrants in Latin America.”