Efforts to protect the northern spotted owl have sparked an impassioned debate that echoes far beyond the endangered bird's habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Safeguarding the owl means setting limits on lumbering in the region's ancient forests. That means lost profits and lost jobs in one of the Northwest's leading traditional industries as well as in communities that support the logging industry. Hardpressed residents of Washington, Oregon and northern California are unwilling to sacrifice “jobs for owls.” Environmentalists counter that both will disappear within a few years if loggers continue to destroy what they say is a nonrenewable resource. The Bush administration and others contend that the controversy is illusory, because economic growth and environmental protection are not incompatible.