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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will deny the California spotted owl federal Endangered Species Act protections. The decision comes after Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Forest Legacy petitioned the Service in 2015 to list the owl as endangered and to designate critical habitat.
Pamela Flick, Senior California Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“We are disappointed in the Trump administration’s decision to deny Endangered Species Act protections to the California spotted owl. The spotted owl’s population will continue to decline towards extinction without federal protections against further habitat loss and mismanagement. Yet again, politics prevailed over science when it comes to protecting the environment.”
Susan Britting, Executive Director for Sierra Forest Legacy, issued this statement:
“Faced with pressure from industry, once again the Service fails to acknowledge the well documented threats and population decline of this species. Without additional protections provided by listing, this species is headed toward extinction.”
- California spotted owls generally inhabit older forests that contain structural characteristics necessary for nesting, roosting, and foraging. Nests are typically found in areas of high canopy cover, with a multi-layered canopy, old decadent trees, a high number of large trees, and coarse downed woody debris. Within an owl territory, spatial heterogeneity to some degree is important for foraging habitat. About ¾ of known California spotted owl locations are on public lands (e.g., National Forests), with the remaining on private timberlands. Demographic studies on national forest lands conducted over the past 20 years have documented a decline in this species. Research has also documented threats to this species from logging and other management actions.
- The forests of the Sierra Nevada region are suffering from the harmful effects of past and current management, especially aggressive logging on private lands and the exclusion of beneficial wildfire, coupled with the impact of climate change-related drought.
- The Sierra and Sequoia national forests planning processes have been ongoing since 2014. The draft revised plans were released earlier this summer by the U.S. Forest Service. The existing plans and proposed plans do not support population viability for California spotted owl.
- Also earlier this year, Sierra Pacific Industries proposed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan for Northern and California spotted owl that fails to adequately protect the species.