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 Wildfires hurt (spotted) owl numbers
July 7, 2005 H&N pg A7

BEND (AP) - The spotted owl population is at an all-time low in Central Oregon after several summers of intense wildfires across the region.

The fires of the last few years, like the B&B Fire of 2003 and the Eyerly Fire of 2002, obliterated at least 19 nests from Sisters to Crescent, leaving public land managers and wildlife officials to juggle wildfire risk with spotted owl habitat protection.  The threatened owls, protected under the Endangered Species Act, thrive in areas that wildfire managers consider the highest risk.

Crowded tree stands with dead snags, thick clusters and multiple layers of vegetation are ideal both for owls and for fueling major fires, said Laurie Turner, biologist for the Deschutes National Forest.

"The remaining owl habitat we have is very valuable, and so we have to leave some of those places, even with their wildfire risk," Phil Cruz, district ranger of the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District.  Thinning and logging projects are being done around - but not in - spotted owl habitat, to safeguard the species.

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