Critical habitat for northern spotted owl

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its proposal to revise designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal identifies for public comment 13,962,449 acres in 11 units and 63 subunits in California, Oregon, and Washington that meet the definition of critical habitat. Identified areas include more than 1.2 million acres of private forest land.

The Service may exclude some of these areas from its final critical habitat designation after taking into consideration economic impacts and other factors. The Service’s proposal describes several alternatives based on potential exclusions from the final rule. The proposal also recommends that in areas that are currently designated as critical habitat as well as any that are designated as a result of this process, appropriate timber harvests consistent with ecological forestry principles be encouraged, a major change from previous critical habitat designations.

In a related action, the Service released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that outlines options for experimental removal of barred owls from certain areas throughout the spotted owl’s range to test the effect of such removal on spotted owl population trends. The Service is considering combinations of both lethal and non-lethal (capturing and relocating or placing in permanent captivity) methods for removing barred owls.
The Service will be accepting public comments for 90 days on both the proposed critical habitat and barred owl draft EIS upon publication in the Federal Register, anticipated within the next two weeks. There will also be an additional public comment period later this spring on the Service’s forthcoming economic analysis of the critical habitat proposal. Additional information is posted at

NCASI is reviewing the critical habitat proposal and draft EIS for barred owl removal with emphasis on statistical methods and models used by the Service to define critical habitat.


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