The spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) is a medium-sized owl that lives in the old-growth forests of western North America. Its range extends from British Columbia down to Mexico, but the species has been in decline for decades due to habitat loss, logging, and other human activities.
Sarah Cox an award journalist and author based in Victoria, BC joined me to talk about the plight of the spotted owl. Sarah covers energy and environmental politics for the Narwhal and is a winner of the World Press Freedom Prize and the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Jackman Award for excellence in journalism.
We talked about the politics and the ongoing efforts to save the owl despite the decline of old-growth forests, which are the owl’s preferred habitat. These forests provide the owls with a dense canopy cover, large trees for nesting and roosting, and abundant prey that they need to survive and reproduce.
The loss of old-growth forests in British Columbia has been driven by logging and development, which have accelerated since the 1980s. The province has some of the last remaining old-growth forests in North America, but these forests are being rapidly depleted. The government of British Columbia has been criticized for not doing enough to protect these forests and the species that rely on them.
Conservationists and environmental groups have been working to raise awareness about the plight of the spotted owl and to push for stronger protections for old-growth forests in British Columbia. Some of these efforts have focused on lobbying the government to create new protected areas and to limit logging in key habitat areas.
In 2019, the British Columbia government announced a plan to protect old-growth forests, but this plan was criticized for not going far enough to protect endangered species like the spotted owl. Some conservationists and scientists have called for a complete halt to logging in old-growth forests in order to protect the biodiversity of the region.
The spotted owl’s decline is a symptom of a larger problem in British Columbia and elsewhere. The loss of biodiversity and the destruction of natural habitats are putting many species at risk, and it is up to humans to take action to protect these species and their habitats. While there is still time to act, urgent and bold steps need to be taken to preserve what remains of British Columbia’s old-growth forests and the species that depend on them.