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USFWS declines to uplist Northern Spotted Owl to endangered


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This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 10 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a 12-month finding for the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), declining to move the species from threatened to endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  

“After a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that reclassification of the northern spotted owl from a threatened species to an endangered species is warranted but precluded by higher priority actions,” states the agency in the Federal Register notice

Historically, Northern Spotted Owl habitat stretched across the Pacific Northwest. The current range is much smaller, as a result of decades of habitat loss. The Service found that on non-Federal lands, “the amount of northern spotted owl habitat ... has decreased considerably over the past two decades,” despite state regulatory measures. On lands managed by the federal government, “the Northwest Forest Plan has reduced habitat loss and allowed for the development of new northern spotted owl habitat; however, the combined effects of climate change, high- severity wildfire, and past management practices are changing forest ecosystem processes and dynamics, and the expansion of barred owl populations is altering the capacity of intact habitat to support northern spotted owls.” 

Several populations of Northern Spotted Owls subject to long-term monitoring declined more than 70 percent in the last 30 years. According to the Service, Northern Spotted Owls are at increased risk for extinction, especially in Washington and Oregon. 

In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a proposal to reduce the critical habitat designated for the Northern Spotted Owl in Oregon by about 2% or 205,000 acres. Currently, 9.6 million acres are designated as Northern Spotted Owl critical habitat in Oregon, Washington, and California. 

 

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