The northern spotted owl is merely a convenient scapegoat for politicians and US Forest Service officials who refuse to admit that the real problem in the region's national forests is bad decisions and poor forest management. The owl, listed as a threatened species, is a barometer of the health of the ecosystem and that of the more than 150 species of wildlife which depend on ancient forests as their primary habitat. The northern spotted owl is not the problem, he is merely the messenger.The Forest Service and members of the Northwest's congressional delegation have ignored the Endangered Species Act and National Forest Management Act for years, and as a consequence the forests of the Northwest are now a shredded fragment of what they used to be. Less than 10 percent of the original ancient forests which once blanketed the West Coast from northern California to British Columbia still exist. Many generations of logging families in the Northwest have been promised an everlasting bounty of huge, old trees. Today, politicians still try to perpetuate that myth. Now the laws which were written to protect forests and wildlife are under siege. The Bush administration and others want the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to be excused from obeying the laws in order to continue very high levels of logging. But surely the solution is not to weaken environmental laws until we have neither forests nor jobs. Let's save the remaining remnants of ancient forests and help the affected loggers to start cutting smaller second growth trees that are plentiful in the region. That is what will happen in a few more years anyway - why not now? Lisa Glantz, Washington, National Audubon Society
Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.