Spotted owls, spotted frogs and…Timber!

I just recently finished the book “The Good Rain” by Timothy Egan. It was a great read, filled with historical elements of the Pacific Northwest. Some of it familiar, some of it not so familiar.

A recurring element throughout the book was the contemporary battle of the timber industry and the so-called ‘treehuggers.’ A little more than 23 years ago, legislation was passed that protected the spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act, which was officially signed into law on Dec. 28, 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon. Not surprisingly, it’s gathering a lot of ink at the 40-year mark. The act as a whole is something I would like to discuss at a later date, but I’ll try to reel it in with a tighter focus for today.

Egan witnessed the spotted owl events unfold first-hand prior to the publication of the book. The protection of the spotted owl put a dent into the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. Some even say it killed the timber industry, but to place the blame of an entire industry around one creature seems preposterous even to those unfamiliar with the subject. As is typically the case, it’s much more complicated with a confluence of factors involved. I feel like Egan was able to do a solid job conveying the complexity of the situation: the very land predating recorded civilization was at stake. At the same time, so were entire families’ livelihoods. It was easy to see which side of the fight Egan backed, but he did well to try to show that both sides had strong reasons for their fight in the battle.

There is a new controversy brewing in the same corner of the country and once again, it is centered around an endangered animal: this time it is the far less sexy Oregon spotted frog.

Here’s an article and a picture of the unsightly creature:

Truthfully, this article left me wondering more. How exactly will the new measure affect private landowners?

This article delves into the specifics, such as the fact that such legislation would not go into effect until September 2014, as well as the fact that the proposal would only affect 20 percent of private landowners.

It seems it is a contentious issue because of fears surrounding the timber industry. 80 percent of the land that might be affected by the legislation is federal. As Egan elucidated in “The Good Rain,” national parks cut deals with the timber industry for many years, but the more recent trend is for federal land to come under federal protection, for better or worse depending on your side of the fight.


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