Ashland, OR – The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has determined there is sufficient cause to trigger a 1-year review for up-listing the embattled northern spotted owl from threatened to endangered. Prompted by an up-listing petition filed by the Arcata, CA conservation group, EPIC, the decision by the Fish & Wildlife Service sets in motion a specific process placing response requirements and specific time constraints on the agency for reaching a determination.
Owl populations have plummeted at a rate of ~3% per year with declines steepest on the Olympic Peninsula, thereby justifying the up-listing review.
According to Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute, who served on the US Fish & Wildlife Service recovery team for the owl from 2006-2008 “the spotted owl is a flagship species that symbolizes the plight of older forests in the Pacific Northwest. The owl and older forests share a common plight, each hanging on to what little remains under the auspices of the Northwest Forest Plan.”
Older forests were once abundant from California’s redwoods to the Olympic Peninsula’s majestic spruce-hemlock forests. Today only about 20% of these ancient forests remain, primarily on federal lands, and, in addition to spotted owls, other species are imperiled such as the marbled murrelet, Pacific fisher, red-tree vole (southern Oregon coast), and Pacific salmon runs.
DellaSala added, “the best way to save the spotted owl and hundreds of species that depend on similar old forest habitat is to protect more habitat from logging so spotted owls can eventually co-exist with invading barred owls.”
He added, “spotted owls are circling the extinction drain because of the triple whammy of logging on private lands, logging of fire-killed trees on federal lands that are still used by spotted owls, and competition for limited habitat with the more aggressive barred owl. More logging only intensifies competition with barred owls rapidly colonizing logged forests.”
As an example, the so-called “Westside Fire Recovery Project” on the Klamath National Forest proposes post-fire logging and related activities on 40,000-acres of fire-affected forests and this will adversely impact 70 spotted owl activity centers. Recent studies show owls are resilient to most forest fires so long as their habitat is not salvage logged. Federal agencies have been proposing unprecedented post-fire logging projects within spotted owl sites, many of which are still occupied by the birds.
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