When a species is threatened with extinction, the parties causing the extinction (e.g. loggers, developers, dam builders) tend to focus upon the particular plant or animal in question and ask whether this one bird or mouse is more important than a highway or some other project. This begs the point.
Endangered species are a symptom of a greater threat: loss of habitat. The spotted owl is endangered because old growth forests are vanishing (editorial, "Protection--at Last," May 2). The least Bell's vireo is endangered because riparian habitat is vanishing. The same holds true for almost every other threatened species. Unfortunately, there is no Endangered Habitat Act, so we are forced to rely upon the Endangered Species Act, hence the argument over obscure butterflies and secretive salt marsh birds.
If we are logging our old growth forests at a faster rate than they are being replaced, then the timber industry in the northwest is doomed anyhow. It is mathematically impossible to sustain this trend.
The timber states should concentrate their efforts upon diversifying their economies while they still have time.
The northern spotted owl is but a harbinger of things to come.