After the northern spotted owl hit the endangered species list in 1990, recovery plans focused on curtailing logging in its old-growth habitat. But when the population failed to bounce back, biologists began to consider removing barred owls, a similar Eastern species that's been invading the spotted owl's Pacific Northwestern territory. A 2008 recovery plan, later revoked by the Obama administration, included shooting the competitors (HCN, 8/4/08, "Hostile Takeover"). A scaled-back 2011 revision called for an experimental cull first.
On July 23, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final environmental impact statement proposing to test the effects of culling in two test areas in Oregon and one each in Washington and California. The agency plans to shoot approximately 3,600 barred owls over four years, possibly beginning this fall. Agency Director Dan Ashe says, "We can't ignore the mounting evidence that competition from barred owls is a major factor in the northern spotted owl's decline, along with habitat loss."