Forest Industry Decries 'Threatened' Listing; Environmentalists Cautious With AM-Spotted Owl, Bjt

SEATTLE (AP) _ The northern spotted owl's listing as a threatened species marks ''a dark day in the history of the Pacific Northwest,'' leading loggers said Friday.

Environmentalists said the listing was long overdue, adding they wanted to see what steps federal agencies would take to protect the uncut forests where the two-foot-tall brown bird lives.

The Interior Department, citing evidence the owl may become extinct, ordered the reclusive bird protected as a threatened species Friday. But it postponed until Tuesday an announcement of a plan that will determine how much logging is to be permitted in the owl's habitat.

''The listing by itself will not protect the owl or the ancient forests,'' said Melanie Rowland of the Wilderness Society's office in Seattle. ''The key is what the agencies are going to do, and how much politics interferes with biology.''

Members of the Northwest Forest Resource Council, which represents the timber companies and 131,000 workers, told a news conference they would seek to limit the bans on logging by emphasizing the economic impact of setting aside land for owls.

The government estimates that as many as 28,000 timber industry jobs could be lost in the next decade in Oregon, Washington and northern California. Entire logging communities could be disrupted by the logging restrictions.

The listing ''represents a dark day in the history of the Pacific Northwest,'' said Gary Jones, president of Summit Timber Co.

While the Endangered Species Act requires listing of a species be made on scientific evidence alone, it has a provision that gives an endangered species committee, including Cabinet members and other state and federal officials, the power to modify how the listing is enacted.

Jones said the council was considering a lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service, and would probably go to court if plans to protect the owl failed to provide sufficient protection for logging.

Environmentalists said the declaration should mark the end of an era.

''The timber frontier is over,'' said Rick Johnson of the Sierra Club. ''This is the clear indication where you cannot go over the next hillside and have something to cut. We have a limited and finite timber base and we have to have some understanding of the consequences of what that logging will have.''

People in the logging towns claim that environmental groups, many of whose constituents are urban dwellers, don't understand how damaging the decision will be to a way of life.

''It's like Boeing leaving Seattle. What would that be like?'' said Jerry Leppell, president of the American Loggers Solidarity Committee in Forks.

Timber is the leading industry in Oregon and also is key in Washington. The governors of both states said they would lobby against overly strict owl recovery plans.

''Federal legislation is needed to protect some old-growth forests while allowing logging to continue without administrative delays in others,'' said Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington said the ruling ''presents a challenge to the Northwest. Clearly, what the timber communities and workers need is assurance of an ongoing and adequate timber supply.'' He said the federal government should provide special assistance to communities hurt by the decision.

According to a federal study, at least 8.4 million acres of the timberlands should be preserved as habitat to save the owl from extinction. The area is equivalent to a swath about 5 miles wide stretching from Los Angeles to New York City.

About 5.4 million acres of owl habitat already are in national parks or wilderness areas off limits to logging, so an additional 3 million acres would have to be withdrawn.

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