The Latest: Feds consider uplisting northern spotted owl to endangered

Only about 4,000 owls remain, despite logging cutbacks.

  • Spotted owl owlettes.


Twenty years ago, 50 scientists compared notes and warned that the northern spotted owl’s decline was rapidly accelerating (“A doomed species?HCN, 6/13/94). The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan aimed to preserve the threatened bird’s shrinking habitat by protecting old-growth forest on federal land. But an unanticipated threat emerged — competition from barred owls. The bigger, more aggressive Eastern birds now outnumber spotted owls in much of their territory. Today, only about 4,000 remain, despite logging cutbacks and efforts to remove barred owls.

In early April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would consider listing the northern spotted owl as endangered, in response to an environmental group’s petition. Federal biologists say they wouldn’t expect management changes with an endangered listing. Meanwhile, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are revising the Northwest Forest Plan. The Forest Service’s version won’t be ready for four years. The BLM’s draft, due soon, may allow increased logging.

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