1987: Newspaper Articles and Events

In 1987, the controversy over the northern spotted owl grew more heated and widespread. The Bureau of Land Management, which manages tens of thousands of acres of old growth spotted owl habitat in Oregon, stated that their land would not apply to the Forest Service’s Alternative F, and would remain open to logging. Meanwhile, environmentalists tried to block timber sales from old growth areas and claimed that at current rates all of the old growth left in the Pacific Northwest would quickly disappear.

In April of 1987, the new Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson decided that the SEIS published in 1986 was “too mechanical,” focusing only on numbers of acres, and they needed to use more common sense. He came up with a plan to reduce the proposed 2,200 required acres per owl pair, so impacts on the timber industry would be reduced. Biologists and environmentalists criticized this idea, and they doubted the spotted owl would be able to survive on reduced amounts of land.

Struggling to survive in the middle of the arguments was the northern spotted owl. In July, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was formally asked to consider listing the spotted owl as a threatened or endangered species. A decision was to be made within a year. Biological studies of the spotted owl increased as the Fish and Wildlife Service worked to determine if the animal should be listed or not. For example, one study found that 8 out of 10 fledglings did not survive their first year. It was proposed that this dramatic mortality was due to logging and reductions of suitable habitat. Another study found that there was an increase in the spotted owl’s predators, as well as an increase in their competition (from another, more aggressive species of owl) for old growth land. Combined with increased logging, the spotted owl was having a hard time surviving. Many felt that time was of the essence.

In November 1987, the argument for protecting old growth for owls was jolted slightly by the discovery of a pair of nesting spotted owls in second-growth forest. A local logging company cut the trees in this area anyway, leaving just 75 acres around the nest, because it was stated in their contract that they had a right to do so. Below are some selected articles reflecting the status of the spotted owl controversy in 1987.

Date: 2/20/87 “Spotted Owl Could Land on Endangered Species List” From: NEWS, OR

Date: 4/30/87 “Forest Service Rethinks Own Proposal” From: Herald, WA

Date: 8/23/87 “Sanctuary in the Deep Woods”From: This World magazine

Date: 8/25/87 “Audubon Society Focuses on Owls” From: Seattle Times, WA

Date: 10/20/87 “Suit Seeks to Save Spotted Owl Habitat” From: The Oregonian, OR

Date: 11/3/87 “Loggers Told Spotted Owls Don’t Count in this Case”From: The Oregonian, OR

Date; 11/12/87 “Fighting for Life” From: The Oregonian, OR

*Please contact the Forest History Society collections staff if you would like copies of these or other articles*