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Endangered Owls Deserve Protections, Court Rules

Living in an Ancient Home

Northern spotted owls populations have been decline throughout the Pacific Northwest. The owl thrives in old-growth habitat -- ancient forests that timber companies find very lucrative to log. The forests of Southern Oregon offer some of the best habitat for the recovery of spotted owls.     

Permits for Destruction

Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a permit for hundreds of timber sales in the very heart of spotted owl habitat in the Rogue River Basin. To justify the sales, the FWS produced a permit allowing the "incidental take" of owls, which means owls harmed, harassed or killed by the logging projects.  Several conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, sued to stop these sales.

Winged Victory

For several years the case bounced up and down from lower courts to the court of appeal. Most recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the "take" statement issued to support the timber sales was "arbitrary and capricious on several counts," had no scientific foundation, and lacked any sort of way to track if too many owls were being destroyed by the logging.