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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

British Columbia, Canada try to Fool the World on Its Environmental Record before the Winter Olympics

Contentious plan for endangered Spotted Owl designed to delay extinction until after 2010 Olympics

Leading environmental groups across Canada are condemning a 5 year plan - that ends just after the 2010 Olympics - to address Canada's critically endangered spotted owl population.

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Vancouver, BC Apr 28, 2006

Leading environmental groups across Canada are condemning a 5 year plan - that ends just after the 2010 Olympics - to address Canada’s critically endangered spotted owl population. The controversial new plan by the British Columbia provincial government allows logging of critical owl habitat and focuses on capturing and breeding owls instead of protecting the old forests the owls need to survive. The plan also ignores the recommendations of the government’s own spotted owl recovery team to recover the diminishing owl population to 125 pairs of birds. Under the plan, the B.C. government, through its Timber Sales Program, will continue as the largest logger of owl habitat.

The political sensitivity surrounding the spotted owl is high because the owls live within the geographic range of the 2010 Olympics, which the province of British Columbia is hosting.  If the bird were to become extinct in B.C. in 2010, as the government’s own recovery team predicted, it would be a high profile embarrassment for a provincial government that pledged the Games would be environmentally friendly.

“Captive breeding and moving birds around is like moving homeless people from one park bench to another. It doesn’t solve the problem that led to the demise of the owl in the first place—loss of habitat from unsustainable logging. Owls need homes just like people. Habitat is the key to wildlife”, said Joe Scott of Conservation Northwest. As stewards of trans-boundary species like owls both countries have a responsibility to protect habitat.

In 2005, B.C. government biologists found only 6 pairs of owls, an 84 per cent decline in under a decade. Scientists believe that before industrial logging, 500 pairs of spotted owls lived in southwestern British Columbia, the only place in Canada they are found. The main threat to the declining spotted owl population is logging of its old-growth forest habitat, a circumstance that is jeopardizing BC’s forest dwelling species. For example, a recent paper in the scientific journal, Biodiversity, found that 17 other species in the range of the spotted owl were at risk of extinction.

“The B.C. government is abandoning scientific logic,” said Dr. Faisal Moola of the David Suzuki Foundation.  “By breeding owls in captivity while neglecting to sufficiently protect their habitat, owls will be released into a hostile environment they can't survive in. Our government is choosing spotted owl extinction over recovery.”

Environmental groups were prepared to support a recovery plan that included captive breeding only if it was complemented with adequate habitat protection and an endangered species law that protects the spotted owl and the other 1,364 species that are at risk in B.C. Although British Columbia has the most biodiversity in all of Canada, it is one of only two provinces in Canada without stand-alone endangered species legislation.

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