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OWL BATTLE IN NORTHWEST CUTS JOBS AND TIMBER SALES

One year after the northern spotted owl was added to the list of threatened species in a deft move to save old forests, Northwest timber sales have declined and jobs in the region are becoming scarce.

One-third of U.S. timber historically has come from the Northwest - half from public lands - in the country's richest tree-growing region.The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reduced the amount of timber they planned to sell this year by three-quarters.

Also, timber jobs in the region declined more than 9 percent since 1990, partly due to a sharp decline in new home construction, industry officials say.

The owl battle began in 1986 when an environmental group called GreenWorld petitioned the government to protect the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act.

Scientists estimated only 3,000 to 5,000 breeding pairs of the owls were left and said the species would disappear unless the trees they live in were protected from logging, which already had consumed 90 percent of the region's old growth forests.

Max Strahan, GreenWorld national campaign director, said the act was the most powerful weapon environmentalists had in the fight to save the Northwest's oldest forests.