Spotted owl flies into Gold Camp Road picture

       Could a spotted owl stop Gold Camp Road?
       This was the basic question being raised by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Ser-vice in a recent review of the U.S. Forest Service's Environmental Assessment (EA) that calls for the reopening of an 8.5-mile segment of the road to one-way traffic.
       The result is that, for the time being, the Forest Service is withdrawing its EA decision.
       Forest Service Planner Frank Landis said he does not think the withdrawal will last beyond early 2006. “It's a point of technicality,” he explained in a phone interview this week. “We did not have concurrence with Fish & Wildlife on a potentially endangered species.”
       That species is the Mexican spotted owl. No habitat has been identified along the road, but a nest exists within five miles. “The owls' habitat is most likely not going to be affected (by the road reopening), but we have to get confirmation from Fish & Wildlife,” he said. “It's kind of a speed bump in the process.”
       The spotted owl is known for its impacts on logging in the Pacific Northwest.
       Landis added that the Fish & Wildlife question is unrelated to the appeals that came in during the recently concluded appeals period that followed the EA-decision announcement last July. The appeals were generally from individuals who had opposed the road's opening during the public-input period prior to the EA decision. A review of those appeals, which had been scheduled to occur this week, has been delayed because of the spotted-owl question, he said.
       Gold Camp Road has been closed since 1988 because of a tunnel collapse. The EA suggests fixing the tunnel and reopening the road southbound, but only if a to-be-appointed volunteer group, working with the Forest Service, can find the money and a third-party contractor to administer the road operation.

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