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Administration Cuts Critical Habitat for Spotted Owl

Bush making destructive moves in waning days of administration.

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Photo by James Johnston

The Bush administration announced August 12 that it will reduce critical habitat for the northern spotted owl in Washington, Oregon and Northern California by 23 percent. The spotted owl is dependent on old-growth forests and was listed on the Endangered Species Act in 1990 after decades of rampant old-growth liquidation in the Pacific Northwest. "Critical habitat" is a designation required by the Endangered Species Act that identifies areas believed to be essential to the species' conservation.

The spotted owl is an indicator of the health of old-growth forest ecosystems and continues to decline at about 4% per year. Despite this chronic decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims the owl can survive with less old-growth and is removing 1.6 million acres of its critical habitat. Less than 10% of old-growth remains today in the Pacific Northwest, and less than 5% of old-growth remains in America.

While the spotted owl continues to decline throughout most of its range, the species is faring best in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. Ironically, the Klamath-Siskiyou region is also targeted for the largest reduction in critical habitat. Preliminary analysis of the critical habitat removal indicates that Medford BLM forests will be hit the hardest in conjunction with the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR). KS Wild and our conservation partners are working steady on this issue, and its companion management plan, the WOPR, with the goal of protecting all remaining old-growth in the Pacific Northwest.  We intend to stop these misguided plans in order to leave a living legacy for future generations of owls, salmon and people.

Click here for a map of the critical habitat reductions in northern California and southern Oregon.