"Populations of both the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher are declining and face a serious risk of extinction," said Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of both petitions. "The Fish and Wildlife Service must take immediate actions towards protecting these species, or we intend to sue," said Greenwald.
"The Sierra Nevada's old growth forests, and the wildlife that inhabit them, have been severely degraded," said Craig Thomas, Conservation Director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. "Old growth forests in the Sierra Nevada have been reduced by 60-85 percent as a result of logging on Forest Service and private timberlands. As a direct result, species like the spotted owl and fisher are at great risk."
The U.S. Forest Service recently adopted the Sierra Nevada Framework plan, which, if implemented, would take steps towards protecting and restoring old growth forests on national forest lands in the Sierra Nevada. However, the plan is subject to administrative appeal by the Bush Administration. Moreover, the plan does not affect private lands, where clearcutting has been greatly accelerated in the past several years.
"Our action today should serve as a wakeup call to the Bush Administration that any action to weaken or reverse the Sierra Nevada Framework will strengthen the need to protect the owl and fisher under the Endangered Species Act," said David Edelson, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the co-petitioners. "If the Bush Administration chooses to disregard environmental laws designed to protect species and ecosystems, the inevitable result will be litigation and injunctions against further logging on Forest Service lands."
The groups petitioned to list the California spotted owl on April 3, 2000, and the Pacific fisher on December 5, 2000. Today's action formally notifies the Fish and Wildlife Service that the groups intend to sue for the agency's failure to comply with statutory deadlines for advancing the listing process for both species. "To further delay their protection under the Endangered Species Act plays politics with their very survival and violates the law," said Laura Hoehn, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and co-counsel in the proposed suit.