< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >
Town of Forks shuts down to protest owl restrictions on May 23, 1991.
HistoryLink.org Essay 8395
: Printer-Friendly Format
On May 23, 1991, Forks businesses except city offices and banks close as residents travel en masse to Olympia to take part in a rally protesting critical habitat protections for the northern spotted owl. A sign on the outskirts of town announces "Forks will be closed Thursday to protest government stupidity in Olympia" (Dietrich).
Town Departs for State Capital
Almost a third of Forks residents left town early in the morning to make the several-hour trip to the state capital, joining woods workers from other Northwest timber towns. The grocery store, the newspaper, and gas stations, among other businesses, all closed for the day. Even the schools suspended classes.
Cutbacks in timber sales from federal lands since the mid-1980s and the spotted owl's eventual 1990 listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act had led to increasing anxiety in Forks, given the town's status as self-proclaimed "Logging Capital of the World." Olympic National Forest employees in the Forks office had just learned that staffing might be reduced by half because the timber harvest had declined by more than 90 percent.
The May 23 protest was specifically linked to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife hearing to review the critical owl areas the agency had recently announced in the Federal Register. Forks areas proposed as critical included farmland, second-growth forest, and an almost treeless mobile-home park, which left residents scratching their heads, since the owls nest in old growth. "We're still in shock at being listed," one resident told a Seattle Times reporter (Dietrich).
In January 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 6.9 million acres of federal Northwest forests as "critical owl habitat." This removed state, tribal, and private lands and reduced the number of acres protected, down from the 11.6 million acres proposed before the contentious public hearings of 1991.
In 2007, Fish and Wildlife sought to reduce the "critical habitat" to 5.3 million acres.
Peter Cannavò, The Working Landscape (Boston: MIT Press, 2007), 74; William Dietrich, "Timber Town Shuts Down for Owl Protest," The Seattle Times, May 23, 1991 (http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com); David Schaefer, "Owl Habitat May Be Reduced," Ibid., January 8, 1992 (http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com); Kathie Durbin, "Rule to Extend Owl Protection," Oregonian, April 23, 1991, p. A-1; Julie Van Pelt interview with Sherrill Fouts, Forks, November 15, 2007; Bill Knickerbocker, "Northern Spotted Owl's Decline Revives Old Concerns," Christian Science Monitor, June 27, 2007 (http://www.csmonitor.com).
Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay
Browse to Next Essay >
Cities & Towns |
Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that
encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both
HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any
reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this
Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For
more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact
the source noted in the image credit.
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided
By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins
| Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry
| 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle
| City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach
Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private
Sponsors and Visitors Like You