Spotted Owl Discussion

Spotted Owl Discussion by Owl Science Team, at 3:14 p.m. on 12 December 2008,

In response to the comments of Steve Self and Linda Blum on December 1:

ACCESS TO PRIVATE LANDS ON THE EDSA: In the early 1990s, an industrial landowner on the EDSA did not want the owl crews to survey along or travel on roads through their land. The Georgetown District Ranger met with the private landowner and pointed out that the USFS maintains many roads that allow private landowners to access their land within the matrix of public and private lands. Without USFS cooperation, private landowners would incur greater expenses to access their land and may even be unable to access some areas. His discussion with the landowner apparently convinced everyone that it was not in the best interest of all parties to argue about who should be on private or public roads within the EDSA during legitimate management or research activities. Almost exclusively, however, we do not access private land per se but simply stay on roads to conduct our surveys. On occasion, we do cross from public land onto private land when following owls if there are no boundary markers obvious to field crews. This cannot be helped because these owl chases generally occur in the dark or relatively far from roads where identifying markers are extremely difficult to detect or do not exist at all.

In summary, it appears by historical precedent that we can travel roads passing through private land if the road connects two parcels of public land. We do not bypass gated roads blocking access to private land without first obtaining permission from landowners. However, we respect private land and do not access such land without permission (i.e., don't leave a through road to access private land if we know it is private land). To conduct morning and evening “walk-in” surveys, we currently have no need to access private land because all owl roost and nest sites are currently on public land. When we have had a specific mission to access private land (e.g., find a radio-marked owl, locate a nest, or to conduct an experiment), we have always sought specific permission to access the land. In summary, we believe that our activities over the past 22 years have been consistent with the desire of private landowners to maintain the integrity of their land.

INFORMATION ON PRIVATE LANDOWNERS: We have recently acquired information on private land ownership from the Placer County Assessor’s Office and are converting it into a shapefile for GIS analysis. All of the Last Chance Study Area and most of the EDSA are located within Placer County. A portion of the EDSA is located in El Dorado County. To obtain land ownership information from the El Dorado County Assessor’s Office, we will need to visit their office in Placerville and we plan on doing so when we resume field work in the area during spring 2009. Again, we note that the identity of landowners is not central to the analysis, only that we know the types and amount of activity that occur within owl territories so that we account for it in our modeling.

Within the EDSA, Lone Star Timber Properties is the primary private landowner. We contacted the company that manages Lone Star’s property and are hopeful that they will provide timber harvest information during the SNAMP study. We will contact other private landowners as needed once we determine which landowners own land near owl territory centers. If we can not obtain information directly from private landowners, we will use information derived from Timber Harvest Plans that have been filed with CDF (as noted in our previous post).

In response to Ms. Blum’s question on December 1, a former graduate student of RJG created a EDSA habitat map in 2004-05 using aerial photos. We also plan to use aerial photos to create a habitat map for the Last Chance Study Area and to update both maps over the course of the SNAMP study. Unfortunately, LiDAR data would be prohibitively expensive to acquire for the entire EDSA. However, there are typically time gaps of 3-4 years between available aerial photos. Thus, we will require more detailed information from landowners or THPs to identify the specific years that various harvest activities have occurred within owl territories in order to evaluate the status of forests within each owl territory.

This post is a part of the following discussions: