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Woodsy Owl not a welcome bird

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Smokey the Bear's sidekick, Woodsy Owl, is being temporarily retired as an anti-litter spokesbird to avoid further polarizing the battle between foresters and environmentalists.

The friendly creature has been telling schoolchildren to 'Give a Hoot -- Don't Pollute!' on behalf of the Forest Service since 1971 but a lot of Oregonians are hooting and hollering these days about a new report from federal scientists, recommending a sharp reduction in logging of old-growth forests to save the northern spotted owl.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could list the bird as a threatened species in June.

The timber industry predicts that up to 9,000 lumber mill and logging jobs would be lost under the proposed restrictions and the economic impact would be even greater if the owl is listed as threatened.

Due to all the hubbub, the Siuslaw National Forest based in Corvallis, Ore., has decided Woodsy won't be joining familiar colleague Smokey this year in visits to area schoolchildren, as he has in the past.

'We were afraid that some folksmay take offense at the notion of the Forest Service accompanying an owl figure right now, because the issue is very emotional and sensitive at the moment,' forest spokesman Norm Hesseldahl said Thursday.

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