Case Studies in Earth & Environmental Science Journalism
In the Audubon article "War on the Woods II: West Side Story", in the January 1990 issue John Mitchell's style uses a fair amount of humor and sarcasm. Did these mechanisms have their intended effect and what were they? Are there any other cases where humor was employed? Were these mechanisms successful or did they backfire?
After reading about "roadblock strategies", what do you feel were some of the most apparent inadequacies in the application of the Endangered Species Act? As a reporter what particular issues would you feel were most important to note about the ESA's application?
What do you make of the rather off-handed comment on page 771 of Daniel Simberloff's paper in the August, 1987 issue of Ecology when he said "many of the owl's most ardent advocates have been scientists who work on the owl or old-growth forests?" How do you weigh that comment and how do you apply that consideration to your reading of the scientific material, in particular the following paper by Kenneth Dixon and Thomas Juelson ("The Political Economy of the Spotted Owl")?
What problems in the experimental design of the Mills et al. (1993) paper would you question? In preparing a story on this paper's results would you address these problems?
How are scientists portrayed in this debate? Are they depicted as objective and middle-of-the road or are they portrayed as if they have clear preservationist tendencies? How did this shape the debate, if at all? How might you account for this issue as a journalist?
In several of the popular articles the logging camp posits the notion that preservationists are being overly conservative in their excessive owl habitat requirements. What do the technical reports say and how can you judge their validity?
What are some of the inherent problems in using indicator species to guide policy and determine the health of an ecosystem? Were these issues effectively addressed in any of the general articles?
What are some of the ways that the media portrayed the Spotted Owl? Cute and cuddly? An important player in the possible cure for cancer? A monkey wrench in the cogs of capitalism (as Rush would have us believe)? A bug on the windshield of the convoy on the way to economic vitality? How did these portrayals factor into the media's various accounts of the arguments for preserving or harvesting old-growth forests?
In the background reading and scientific review pieces from Condor and Ecology did you find any issues that you felt should have been covered in the press that weren't? Were other old-growth forest services ignored (e.g. water filtration, atmospheric CO2 reduction, tourism, etc.)? In general, do you feel that there were issues that should have received more or less focus? Did the media ever get hung-up on one, or a few points?
What methods did authors of popular articles employ to explain the effects of saving the owl and old-growth forests? What other terms did the authors use to express the areas of habitat that were preserved or logged?
Which pieces did the best job of objectively interpreting the events and arguments?
How did Costanza et al. Evaluate the old-growth-and-spotted-owl crisis? How could their method of valuing natural ecosystems have been applied to moderate the dispute?
|1973||Congress passed The Endangered Species Act.|
|1976||The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a national assessment of the health of the country's forests. During this undertaking the Spotted Owl first began to be evaluated and even considered as a possible indicator species.|
Environmental groups campaign t o have the Spotted Owl listed as an Endangered Species.
Estimates of remaining old-growth forest range from 10% to 30%.
|1988||Judge Zilly ruled that the government acted illegally by not listing the Spotted Owl as an Endangered Species.|
|1990||The Spotted Owl is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).|
Federal Judge Dwyer of Seattle issued a ruling that halted logging in designated owl habitat - totaling some 25 million acres.
The Bush administration placed restrictions on 11.6 million acres of forest, considered "critical habitat" in an effort to save the owl as an initial stage of a habitat protection plan. About 75% of the designated land was federal protection land.
|1992||Clinton and Gore participate in the Forest Summit in Portland Oregon.|
A three- judge panel of a D.C. circuit upheld, two to one, the interpretation of "harm" in the ESA to include habitat modification.
Judge Dwyer revokes his initial ruling and allows some logging under a Clinton administration compromise plan.
In March, the same three-judge panel as the previous year, reverses its decision on the interpretation of what it means "to harm". The vote was two to one.
The Interior Department rejects a bid to remove the Spotted Owl from the Endangered Species List.
Sweet Home vs. Babbitt (Supreme Court): At issue is the scope of the Department of the Interior's regulation that makes it illegal to harm endangered species by modifying its habitat.
Congress enacts an Emergency Salvage Timber Sale Program, which was designed to allow the collection of timber from forest fire areas, but also would allow some logging in areas where it had been banned due to the ESA. The program was sponsored by Sen. Slade Gorton of WA., R., and was supported by all but two senators.
|1999||Judge Dwyer issues a decision that effectively blocked plans for logging about 100 million board feet of timber.|
Gillis, A. M. (1990). "The New Forestry." BioScience 40(8): 558-562.
Mitchell, J. G. (1990). "War in the woods Part II: West Side Story." Audubon 92(January1990): 82-121.
Platter, Z. J. B., R. H. Abrams, et al. (1998). Roadblock strategies: Stark prohibiitons and their variability. Chapter 14 in Envirnomental Law & Policy: Nature, Law & Society, 2nd edition, West Publishing Co.: 671-694.
Dawson, W. R. e. a. (1987). "Repoprt of the Scientific Advisory Panel on the Spotted Owl." Condor 89(1): 205-209.
Simberloff, D. (1987). "The spotted owl fracas: Mixing academic, applied and political economy, part of a special feature- Spotted owl." Ecology 68(4): 766-772.
Dixon, K. and T. C. Jeulson (1987). "The political economy of the spotted owl, part of a special featur _ Spotted owl." Ecology 68(4): 772-776.
Salwasser, H. (1987). "Spotted Owls: Turning a battleground into a blueprint, part of a special feature - Spotted owl." Ecology 68(4): 772-776.
Mills, L. S., R. J. Fredrickson, et al. (1993). "Characteristics of old-growth forests associated with northern spotted owls in Olympic National Park." Journal of Wildlife Management 57(2): 315-321.
Sullivan, C. (1987). "Feathers fly over logging controversy." Christian Science Monitor (8/6/87).
Egan, T. (1988). Ruling on owl stirs new hope for trees. New York Times (11/18/88).
Lehman, H., Jane (1989). Oregon court clears path for loggers. Ban to protect rare owls is lifted in Pacific Northwest. Washington Post (5/27/89).
Nolte, C. (1990). Spotted owl declared threatened. San Francisco Chronicle (5/27/89).
Diringer, E. (1991). Whitehouse's plan to save spotted owl, 116 million acres of forest may be 'critical habitat'. San Francisco Chronicle (4/27/91).
Anonymous (1991). Conservation; Owlmageddon. The Economist, (UK edition pg. 41) (5/4/91), pg. 27.
Pringle, P. (1994). Ruffled feathers in the forest. The Independent. London (5/16/94), p. 17.
Sonner, S. (1994). Government rejects bid to remove spotted owl from threatened list. Associated press (9/1/94).
Schneider, K. (1995). Power to protect species may hang on a word. New York Times (1/6/95).
Westneat, D. (1996). War of the woods (cont.) - Contracts to log Virginia old-growth renew northwest's debate over forests. Seattle Times, (1/31/96).
Verhovek, S. H. (1999). Judge, faulting agencies, halts logging deals. New York Times (8/5/99).
Nicolai, D. (1990). "The destruction of America's rain forest." Utne Reader (July/August) p. 23-4.
Casey, C. (1991). "The Bird of Contention." American Forests 97(9 -10) p. 28-68.
Gentry, B. and A. Barber (1995). "The Environmental Case of the Decade." American Lawyer (May 1995) p.50.
Beardsley, T. (1995). "Endangered: One endangered species act." Scientific American 272 p. 18-19.
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