|The Northern Spotted Owl is listed as a threatened species. Under the Endangered
Species Act, a "threatened" listing means that a species is likely to become
endangered within the foreseeable future.
The Fish and Wildlife Service found that the Northern Spotted\Owl was "threatened
throughout its range by the loss and adverse modification of suitable habitat as the
result of timber harvesting and catastrophic events such as fire, volcanic eruption,
and wind storms."
Once a species receives Endangered Species Act protection, it is illegal for federal
agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management
(BLM)--both of which administer virtually all remaining unprotected spotted owl
habitat in the Pacific Northwest--to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill,
trap, capture, or collect the species or to involve it in interstate or foreign
There are only 2,000 known pairs of northern spotted owls, which can be found in
old-growth forest from southwestern British Columbia, western Washington state,
western Oregon, and northwestern California south to San Francisco Bay, with the
densest populations in the Cascades of Oregon and the Klamath Mountains of
southwestern Oregon and northwestern California.
Because it will probably take the Fish and Wildlife Service from twelve to fourteen
months to develop a recovery plan for the owl, the BLM and the Forest Service are
to come up with their own interim plans. The BLM's plan includes a decrease in logging
in its old-growth forests, from 950 million to 750 million board feet; conservationists
believe this amount is inadequate to protect the owl.
The Forest Service has convened an interagency task force to develop its plan. The
task force is chaired by Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter, who will consult with
the governors and congressional delegations of the Pacific Northwest states. Not one
representative of the environmental organizations that have long championed
protection of old-growth forests and the spotted owl was asked to serve on the
Forest Service task force.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as threatened throughout its
range in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Starting in
July, federal agencies must make sure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry
out are not likely to jeopardize the owl's continued existence.
The owl has become symbolic of the battle over the remaining old-growth forest.
Activists seek to prevent further logging of old-growth Forest Service lands, which
make up 70 percent of the owl's remaining habitat. Beginning in 1991, the Forest
Service will have to consult with Fish and Wildlife before leasing lands to timber
companies, to ensure that the action will not jeopardize the species and that actions
that would injure owls are modified.
Conservationists hope the listing will slow fragmentation of the owl's habitat. While
Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier national parks in Washington and Crater
Lake National Park in Oregon all contain protected owl habitat, the birds depend upon
a much broader territory that includes the national forests and BLM land.
The disappearance of these forests means owls would become isolated in the parks,
with neither enough range nor a. large enough genetic pool. If too much neighboring
old-growth is lost, according to the Fish and Wildlife report accompanying the listing
decision, currently protected habitat will not insure the long-term survival of the owl.
Aninteragency scientific team, commissioned last fall to develop a strategy for
protecting the owl, recommended banning logging on three million additional acres.
Because of administration opposition, however, BLM and the Forest Service will
develop their own plans rather than implement the scientific findings.
We all need to make our voices heard to protect the northern spotted owl from
Fink, P. A. Northern Spotted Owls. 2003.
Smalley, C. P. Threat to the Spotted Owl (A Robbie Reader)(On the Verge of