The Obama administration is trying to save the spotted owl, but bailing out the endangered critter might just involve the premeditated demise of someone sitting on the family tree: The larger barred owl is a rival to the spotted owl, and is often cited as one of the major threats to the survival of the one-pound bird, which has been on the threatened species list since 1990. Despite decades of government attempts to help the spotted owl thrive—including a struggle with the logging industry—its numbers have fallen by 40% over the past 25 years. In addition to cutting down on barred owls, the new plan would designate critical habitat areas for the spotted owl, and would allow logging in order to guard against wildfire—and create jobs.
Officials know the plan to kill barred owls is controversial, but they say results of one experiment were promising: Spotted owls returned to their territories when barred owls were removed. But conservationists aren't sure about the plan, particularly the part allowing logging inside critical habitats, since no studies have shown that tactic to work. And at least one timber industry group isn't convinced that allowing logging in those areas will create many jobs, the AP notes. As for the barred owl, many will be relocated or placed in permanent captivity, but hundreds could be killed with shotguns—though will it really make a difference? Says one scientist, "There are not enough shotguns. It would be just about like trying to wipe out coyotes." (Read more spotted owl stories.)