Just last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said the Northern Spotted Owl needed to be reclassified from threatened to endangered, reflecting continued loss of the old-growth forests it needs to live — particularly on private and state lands — and the on-going spread of the invasive Barred Owl, which competes with the Spotted Owl.
The Trump administration declined to uplist the bird, and this week, it pounded another metaphorical nail in the owl’s coffin. On Wednesday, FWS published a final revised critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl that excludes nearly 3.5 million acres, mostly in Oregon, from federal protections. This is a massive increase from the 204,653 acres in Oregon the FWS proposed to exclude in August.
“Even in its final week, the Trump administration is continuing its cruel, reckless attacks on wildlife at a breakneck pace,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This revision guts protected habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl by more than a third. It’s Trump’s latest parting gift to the timber industry and another blow to a species that needs all the protections it can get to fully recover.”
Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to balance the benefits and costs of designating areas as critical habitat and consider excluding areas if the costs are too high. The Service did not conduct a new economic analysis but rather relied on a 2012 analysis that found some incremental costs of designating in terms of lost timber harvest. The agency reversed its own previous conclusion that the benefits outweighed the costs.
This is consistent with a recent rule put out by the Trump administration that emphasized giving additional weight to economic costs raised by industries in making critical habitat designations and which the Center for Biological Diversity, along with partners, will challenge.
Based on this analysis, the new critical habitat revision excludes approximately 3,472,064 acres, cutting acres of protected critical habitat originally designated in 2012 by more than a third.
“Excluding millions of acres of federal land will do little to help rural communities in Oregon, but it’ll be another nail in the coffin for the Spotted Owl,” said Greenwald. “Instead of trying to prop up a declining timber industry, we should be doing more to restore forests to save our climate and avoid the extinction crisis. There’s so much work to do in the woods, and much of it is a lot better for the environment than logging.”
Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for providing this news.