Spotted owl back under microscope

  • NO ROOM TO SPREAD ITS WINGS: Northern spotted owl with prey, photographed in Northern California

    Jeffrey Rich
  The timber industry is celebrating a court decision which forces the federal government to take another look at the most controversial of old-growth forest dwellers: the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.

Timber industry groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to reassess the population and habitat of the birds, as required by the Endangered Species Act. Habitat protections are keeping loggers away from timber promised to them under President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, according to Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council: “We just want better access to federal wood.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is required to do a scientific review of threatened and endangered species every five years, but “we do not have the luxury of doing reviews often,” says Joan Jewett, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman. “We are buried in work keeping up with designating new species and their habitat.”

The January court decision orders a new study of the owl’s numbers by next December and final proposals for protecting forest habitat by December 2005, for the owl, and 2006, for the murrelet.

Kristen Boyles of the Seattle office of Earthjustice doubts the threatened status of the owl and murrelet will change, but she fears the new review will lead to logging in forests now protected as critical habitat.
High Country News Classifieds