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Sunday, August 6, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A brief history of the spotted-owl controversy

1973 - The Endangered Species Act passes Congress, and the U.S. Department of the Interior lists the northern spotted owl as a potentially endangered species.

1977 - The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management make the first attempt to preserve old-growth forests around spotted owls.

1981 - The Oregon-Washington Interagency Wildlife Committee calls for establishing a buffer zone of 1,000 acres of old-growth forest around each owl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service promises to consider the option.

1986 - The Forest Service adjusts its forest-management plan, proposing to set aside up to 690,000 acres of national forest for preservation of the owl.

1987 - Thirty environmental groups file petitions seeking endangered protection for the owl. The Fish and Wildlife Service rejects the petition.

1988 - U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly rules the Reagan administration rejected the petition arbitrarily and sends it back.

1989 - A tavern in Colburg, Ore., advertises "pickled spotted owl egg" and "fried or broasted spotted owl" on its menu. U.S. District Judge William Dwyer blocks 140 timber sales by the Forest Service.

1990 - Government biologists recommend setting aside 3 million acres to protect the owl. Chanting "families first, owls last," about 1,500 Grays Harbor residents, fearing massive layoffs in the timber industry, block a Highway 101 bridge across the Hoquiam River to demonstrate against proposals to protect the owl. On June 22, Fish and Wildlife declares the owl threatened.

1991 - Hundreds of timber workers rally outside a union hall in Portland, before a Fish and Wildlife hearing on a plan to set aside 11.6 million acres of forest in three states for owl habitat. Dwyer rules the federal government did not do enough to protect the owl, and temporarily shuts down most timber sales in old-growth habitat.

1992 - Landowners, timber companies and others file a lawsuit challenging application of spotted-owl laws on private property.

1993 - Federal scientists say spotted-owl populations appear to be declining. President Clinton and Vice President Gore host a forest conference, which later gives rise to the Northwest Forest Plan. Clinton bills the plan as "a departure from the failed policies of the past." The day the plan is formally unveiled, timber workers stage a mock funeral procession through Portland with black coffins, and deliver 70 funeral wreaths to the White House.

1994 - Dwyer upholds the Forest Plan, which reduced logging to 1 billion board feet per year - less than 25 percent of the levels harvested in 1980s - and protects two-thirds of remaining older forests. The plan also requires federal agencies to survey about 100 rare species to determine what else might need protection.

1995 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules spotted-owl laws can be applied to private land.

1996 - Activists cement themselves to a couch cemented to the ground in the Olympic National Forest to try to prevent congressionally sanctioned old-growth logging near a spotted owl nest site.

1999 - Dwyer places 250 million board feet of timber sales on hold, while the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management conduct surveys for rare species, as required under the forest plan. Environmentalists hope to eliminate logging on another 1.1 million acres of old-growth forest through an amendment to the plan.

2000 - Environmentalists petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the California spotted owl, a subspecies of the northern spotted owl, for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A federal judge may decide by year's end whether to suspend all logging within the range of the spotted owl until forest managers figure out why populations are falling more rapidly than expected.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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