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Interior strips protections for owl species on decline

Benjamin J. Hulac, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

“Based on our review of the best available scientific and commercial information pertaining to the factors affecting the northern spotted owl, we find that the stressors acting on the subspecies and its habitat, particularly rangewide competition from the nonnative barred owl and high-severity wildfire, are of such imminence, intensity, and magnitude to indicate that the northern spotted owl is now in danger of extinction throughout all of its range,” the document reads.

The authors added, in part, that “we find that listing the northern spotted owl as an endangered species is warranted throughout all of its range.”

Last week, Interior said it would no longer hold petroleum and other industries legally liable for killing migratory birds as long as they did not mean to.

The executive branch has also pushed for sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act, which applies to plants and animals, during the Trump era.

In July, Interior, joined by the Commerce Department, argued that the definition of habitat under the ESA, signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, should be narrowed.

 

Then in October, Interior lifted protections under the ESA for gray wolves, a long-held goal of hunters and Republican members of Congress. USFWS said it would monitor the animals for five years before turning management over to states and tribes.

Logging led to the widespread loss of forests and the protective dense canopies they provided, leading to the listing under the ESA of the northern spotted owl in the 1990s. Interior listed the owl as threatened following a court order in 1990, citing declining population and habitat, among other factors.

“Here in southern Oregon this is a death sentence for owls,” said George Sexton, conservation director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “This decision is intended to speed the clearcutting of the last remaining fragments of old-growth forests on Bureau of Land Management public lands.”

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