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The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) became the focal point of a singular struggle in the annals of North American environmentalism when it was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in June of 1990. The listing signified and drew widespread attention to the conversion of old-growth forests to younger, ecologically simpler forests, and to a brewing scientific and political controversy. This controversy raised questions about the legitimacy of industrial forestry and state forest policy dedicated to ecological conversion and simplification for the purposes of commodity production. Yet, it also threw into sharp relief the scientific, political, and cultural underpinnings of Western environmentalism. The fight over whether or not to save the owl should in these respects be seen as a ...

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