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The Associated Press reports the Barack Obama administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that is shoving aside its smaller cousin, the Northern spotted owl.

The government set aside millions of acres of forest to protect the spotted owl, but the bird’s population continues to decline — a 40 percent slide in 25 years.

Officials acknowledge that the plan to kill barred owls creates an ethical dilemma, but say an experiment on private land in northern California has shown promising results. Spotted owls have returned to historical territories after barred owls were killed.

But the plan, in our view, plays games with Mother Nature. One that cannot be reversed.

This country has spent untold money to protect endangered species from the havoc wrought by humans. Now it seems it will spend money to kill other creatures that have as much a right to life as any other species.

The natural process, at least for species other than humans, is a delicate balance. Lions kill zebras, but nature constrains the number of lions to a relatively low number while zebras breed like, well, zebras.

In game preserves in Africa, humans no longer are allowed to kill either. Mother Nature takes care of the rest to maintain a balance.

We fully support establishing protected areas to allow nature to take its course without humans creating an imbalance through hunting or development. We can argue loudly the need for such protected areas including national parks. The concept of preserving the balance of nature is sound thinking.

Consider during the early 1900s when a bounty was placed on wolves to protect deer populations. We nearly drove the wolf into extinction.

Fooling Mother Nature eventually has a price.

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