Lee Pitts: Not exactly
January 25, 2014
"It's time for bed sweetie," the father said. "Get in your jammies and I'll read you the bedtime story in the big green book about the northern spotted owls."
"But I don't like that stupid story daddy. Read to me about wizards instead."
"No, this is my favorite story and it bears repeating, so here goes. A long time ago in the forests of the northwest there lived terrible people called loggers."
"Why were they bad daddy?"
"Because they cut down the only trees that the spotted owls could live in. They were called old growth forests and these terrible people, the loggers, were destroying their tree houses just to produce lumber for humans to build there own homes."
"You mean like our house daddy?"
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Clearing his throat the father continued. "The northern spotted owls were an important indicator species."
"What's an indicator species?"
"A species that if something bad happened to them then someday it would happen to us too."
"You mean these terrible timber people are going to come and cut down our house too?"
"Not exactly. Something had to be done so in 1994, the heroic federal government, devised something called the Northwest Forest Plan that banned logging on 20 million acres they said was necessary to save the spotted owl."
"So the spotted owl lived happily ever after daddy?"
"Well, um, not exactly sweetie. The ban did get rid of the terrible loggers and destroyed their communities, so that part was good. And the other good news was it was found that the spotted owls could live in new growth forests too. Imagine that!"
"But daddy, you said the owls could only live in old growth forests? After they got rid of the terrible loggers the spotted owls got their houses back, right?"
"Uh, oh, not exactly dear. The spotted owls continued to decline in numbers, partly as a result of terrible wildfires that burned down their forests."
"Why did the fires burn down their houses daddy?"
"Well, it's too complicated for you to understand baby, but after they got rid of the loggers the dry matter in the forests served as tinder for the forest fires."
"So the loggers weren't really bad people after all?"
"How do you expect me to finish the story if you ask so many questions sweetie? The loggers are still bad guys but the spotted owls territory was also being overrun by an evil cousin called the barred owl. They didn't get along."
"So these barred owls killed the spotted owls?"
"Not exactly. For every spotted owl there were now five barred owls. So the Fish and Wildlife Service came up with a plan to spend three million dollars, or $833 per bird, to kill 3,603 barred owls in Washington, Oregon and Northern California over the next four years."
"Daddy this is the part of the story that gets really confusing. Are you telling me that it's all right to kill one kind of bird to maybe save another kind."
"Not exactly. It's just like ruining the medical insurance for 10 million people just so six people can have insurance. It has to be done because the government says the barred owls have to be killed because they are an invasive species that moved into a place where they never lived before."
"Auntie Kate never lived here before either daddy, is she an invasive species? Are they going shoot her too? Oh daddy, I don't want them to shoot auntie Kate."
"Now go to sleep sweetie. It's past your bedtime. And quit your whining."