Tuesday, June 05, 2012 6:41 AM PT
Spotted Owl Plan May Have Economic Benefit

     WASHINGTON (CN) - A newly completed draft economic analysis suggests the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat plan for the northern spotted owl may have a positive economic impact.
     The analysis suggests that the incremental implementation of the proposal may have a positive economic impact on communities dependent on logging if more ecological logging practices are employed. Such practices are usually more labor intensive and over the long term are less destructive to forests, according to the analysis.
     In addition, more timber actually may be harvested after more extensive surveys of areas occupied by the northern spotted owl are conducted, the analysis says.
     Only about 2 percent of all federal lands would see a reduction in timber harvest under the proposal, the analysis says. Depending on which of three possible exclusions for the critical habitat designation the USFWS adopts, no change is expected to existing harvest on private or state lands.
     The exclusions considered are for state and private lands already protected under conservation agreements.
     In the 20 years since the northern spotted owl was first listed under the Endangered Species Act, timber harvest has declined by 51 percent and employment in the industry has declined by 52 percent, according to the analysis.
     The employment figures do not include job losses in the government sector resulting from declining tax revenue from timber harvests nor do they include losses in other sectors dependent on relatively high paying logging and mill jobs.
     The public has until July 6 to comment on the proposal, the draft economic analysis and a draft environmental assessment the USFWS said it would release June 4.