VANCOUVER, BC – A leaked document reveals an imminent plan by the British Columbia government to capture at least half and perhaps all of Canada’s most endangered bird, the northern spotted owl, and put them in zoos while their last habitat is logged.
Just 16 spotted owls remain in the Canadian wilderness, all of which are found in southwestern British Columbia. Government scientists have identified the loss and fragmentation of habitat due to logging as the primary threat to the owl. The logging is approved under a B.C. government management plan for owls that prioritizes logging over spotted owl protection. The B.C. government is also the largest logger of owl habitat through their Timber Sales Program.
News of the secret plan comes as the Wilderness Committee confirmed active and planned logging in several areas that are key owl habitat including Lillooet Lake, Fire Mountain in the Lillooet River Valley and Blackwater Creek near Birkenhead Provincial Park.
In April 2006, the government announced the creation of an expert science team to advise on both captive breeding and protecting recovery habitat. After this, the BC government changed the team’s terms of reference to disregard habitat. The leaked document from the team confirms that consideration of recovery habitat protection was “therefore not addressed.”
The government plan coincides with a court case brought by Sierra Legal, on behalf of ForestEthics, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence and the Wilderness Committee, that aims to force the Canadian government to protect the owls’ habitat using the federal Species at Risk Act. Documents obtained in the court case reveal that Ottawa contemplated intervening in April 2006 in the face of continued logging by B.C. but chose not to after the BC government promised that steps would be taken to recover the owl population and protect their habitat.
“The capture of all spotted owls would mark the extinction of this species from the wild in Canada and amount to an admission by the government of its absolute failure to protect the birds’ old forest refuge,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Devon Page.
“Putting wild owls in zoos while continuing to log their habitat borders on the criminally insane,” said Joe Foy, Campaign Director with the Wilderness Committee. “It’s a cynical attempt to curry public favour while doing nothing to recover the species. Where will you release the young owls – into a sea of clearcuts?”
The science team includes representatives from the United States Forest and Fish and Wildlife Services, the University of British Columbia and the Toronto Zoo. The leaked document will be posted at www.sierralegal.org at 9 a.m. pacific time.
For more information, please contact:
Devon Page, Sierra Legal, (604) 685-5618 ext. 233, 604-313-3132 (c)
Joe Foy, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 604-202-0322 (c) or 604- 880-2580
Candace Batycki, ForestEthics, 604-219-7457 (c)
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (c)