Complying with a court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today filed the long-awaiting 2011 Final Recovery Plan for northern spotted owls in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The 2011 Recovery Plan came as a result of Earthjustice litigation that successfully challenged the prior 2008 scientifically and politically discredited recovery plan for the threatened birds.
“The prior recovery plan ignored years of scientific study and public opinion finding our old-growth forests need to be protected,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice representing 17 national and regional conservation organizations in the legal action. “Protecting mature and old-growth forests is about owls and more—it is key to protecting rivers and streams, drinking water, sustainable timber jobs, and outdoor recreation, a major economic contributor to local communities across the region.”
“This 2011 Recovery Plan finds that it is more important than ever to protect and restore our mature and old-growth forests,” continued Boyles. “In fact, the success of the barred owl, a species in competition with the spotted owl for food and habitat, shows just how sick these over-logged forests are. The solution is not to abandon the forest to more clear-cuts, but to focus on protecting the older forests we have left, and to focus future timber production on restoration-based projects.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service remains under court order to revise and re-issue designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl because in August 2008, the Bush administration relied on the prior flawed recovery plan to slash federally protected owl habitat by about 1.6 million acres, or 23 percent. The court has ordered a proposal from the agency by November 15, 2011.
The Fish and Wildlife Service listed northern spotted owls as a threatened species in 1990 and originally protected its critical habitat in 1992. Only 15 to 20 percent of the original old-growth forests remain throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to providing critical habitat for spotted owls, salmon, steelhead and other species, mature and old growth forests are important sources of clean water and help reduce global warming.
Earthjustice and Washington Forest Law Center represent Seattle Audubon Society, Geos Institute, Oregon Wild, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Conservation NW, Audubon Society of Portland, National Audubon Society, Cascadia Wildlands, Klamath Forest Alliance, Conservation Congress, American Bird Conservancy, Umpqua Watersheds, and Gifford-Pinchot Task Force in this litigation.