The northern spotted owl is a threatened species native to the old-growth cloud forests of the province of British Columbia, Canada, and the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and California. (This breathtaking photograph was taken in Northern California's redwood forest in 2008.)
In the 1990s, the owl became a symbol of the bitter conflict between conservation efforts and economic activity. The old-growth forests where northern spotted owls make their homes are lucrative natural resources that provide thousands of jobs in the North American timber industry.
Habitat loss was listed as a major contributor to the birds' "threatened" status. The timber industry feared that if the northern spotted owl was protected by the federal government, they would be forced to slow or stop logging in some areas.
The "jobs v. owls" debate is not as contentious as it was in the 1990s, partly because the timber industry, conservation groups, and state and federal governments have learned to work together. How do you think these groups have cooperated?
Despite the cooperation of timber companies, populations of the northern spotted owl continue to decrease by about 3% a year. What are some possible reasons for this decline?
Michael "Nick" Nichols, the artist who took this photograph, is "kind of on a mission, working really hard to tell [endangered species'] story, speaking for them since they can't speak for themselves." How do you think Nick speaks for the northern spotted owl in this photograph?
For Further Exploration
- Santa Clara University: Ethics and the Environment—The Spotted Owl Controversy
- National Geographic News: Owls Face Spotted Future
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry bitter Adjective
cloud forest Noun
wooded area, usually high-altitude, almost always covered by clouds and fog.
a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Encyclopedic Entry: conservation economic Adjective
having to do with money.
having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).
system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.
habitat loss Noun
the reduction or destruction of an ecosystem, making it less able to support its native species.
activity that produces goods and services.
industry engaged in cutting down trees and moving the wood to sawmills.
profitable or money-making.
natural resource Noun
a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.
old-growth forest Noun
collection of trees and shrubs that has not been harvested for timber or other uses in about 200 years, although definitions vary. Also called a primeval forest, primal forest, or ancient woodland.
bird of prey.
division of a country larger than a town or county.
Encyclopedic Entry: province threatened species Noun
organism that may soon become endangered.
wood in an unfinished form, either trees or logs.
timber company Noun
business that harvests trees for wood, paper, or other use.