More than a year after it began, the quarrel over the heavy handed protections for the Mexican Spotted Owl has come to a quiet conclusion. Last year NMBC highlighted the plight of timber and firewood harvesters who were told they couldn’t carry out their work in NM forests due to lax protections for the endangered owl on behalf of the federal land and wildlife managers. The ban on forest production enacted by a federal judge reactively put hundreds of jobs on ice, and forced New Mexicans who heat their homes traditionally with firewood to go elsewhere.
As of Wednesday however, the environmental group who brought the suit (WildEarth Guardians) has reached an agreement with federal land and wildlife managers that will allow restoration efforts and timber harvesting to resume in New Mexico’s forests. Forest management officials have agreed to track the owl’s population levels through 2025 and conduct surveys before carrying out activities inside the known habitats of the owl. “The affected forests are eager to resume work on the ground, demonstrating our commitment to conducting sustainable restoration projects in a way that benefits
all,” Acting regional forester Sandy Watts said in an interview. Staff with the regional office will work with local businesses on plans to resume activities on national forest lands.
The owl habitat comprised only about 6% of the more than 1,400 square miles of forest that are undergoing thinning and restoration treatment in the southwest U.S., according to environmentalists. But the sudden closure of the forests to commercial activities resulted in a mad dash to find alternate sources for firewood and timber that allow industry firms to continue operations. New Mexico State Forester Laura McCarthy said the cooperation over the past year kept the injunction from devastating New Mexico’s forest sector and restoration economy while the parties negotiated. Click here for more.