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.
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.