Center for Biological Diversity

Mexican Spotted Owl

Mexican Spotted Owl
Image: Greg Smith via Flickr CC

How many people do you know who would give their all to keep chainsaws from razing a tree for just one owl?  That’s how the idea for the Center for Biological Diversity got started.

Kierán Suckling, Peter Galvin, and Todd Schulke met while surveying owls for the U.S. Forest Service.  The three, who were all in their twenties, shared a love of the outdoors and of the wildlife that thrived there.  Kierán was a doctoral student in philosophy, Peter was training in conservation biology, and Todd had a background running outdoor-education programs for high-risk kids.

They were surprised when they found a rare Mexican spotted owl nest in one of the old-growth trees in their study.  More devastating was that the tree was slated to be cut down in a massive clear cut.  When they brought this to the attention of their local Forest Service manager, they got bad news.  The sale would take place despite how this went against Forest Service protocol.

The Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity

The three went to the local papers and drummed up enough media attention to save the tree, but that was just the beginning.  Kieran, Peter and Todd soon joined forces with Dr. Robin Silver, an emergency room doctor, nature photographer, and grassroots advocate who had written an Endangered Species Act petition to protect the Mexican spotted owl.  Other activists heard about the project and signed on as well.  Thus begun the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center aimed to “systematically and ambitiously use biological data, legal expertise, and the citizen petition provision of the powerful Endangered Species Act to obtain sweeping, legally binding new protections for animals, plants, and their habitat — first in New Mexico, then throughout the Southwest, next through all 11 western states and into other key areas across the country. With each passing year the Center has expanded its territory, which now extends to the protection of species throughout the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and international regions as remote as the North and South poles,” according to the Center’s website.

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