Service Identifies Areas to Be Assessed for Potential Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat, Proposes Broad Exclusions, Ecological Forestry, and Barred Owl Control
Service will now undertake important economic assessment to inform final designation
Washington, DC – Today, in compliance with an order from a U.S. District Court, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a science-based critical habitat proposal for the northern spotted owl that begins a public review process to determine what forest lands should be designated as critical habitat in a final rule that will be published in November. This proposal recommends substantially increasing active management of forests, consistent with ecological forestry principles, in areas designated as critical habitat. Today’s announcement, which identifies areas that may be considered for the final designation, also emphasizes significant benefits of excluding private lands, and that consideration along with the important economic assessment will help inform areas that will be excluded from the final designation.
“We must move forward with a science-based approach to forestry that restores the health of our lands and wildlife and supports jobs and revenue for local communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “By confronting the growing impact of the invasive barred owl and expanding the scientific foundation for wise management of our forests, we can give communities, foresters, and land managers additional tools they need to forge a healthier and more productive future for our forests. Today’s announcement provides a foundation from which we can assess the appropriate areas for final designation – a decision which will be based on science and informed by the important economic analysis and public feedback to be conducted over the coming months.”
Today’s announcements follow a visit last week by Secretary Salazar to one of three ecological forestry pilot projects in Oregon, where – as suggested by Dr. Norm Johnson and Dr. Jerry Franklin - he proposed an expansion of active forest management in Western Oregon to provide sustainable timber and healthier habitat for wildlife and fish.
“The forestry pilot projects that our research has helped inform and implement will result in good size timber for local mills, and will leave behind dry forests that are healthier and more fire resistant and moist forests that are more diverse and provide better habitat for wildlife,” said Dr. Franklin and Dr. Johnson. “The endorsement of ecological forestry in today’s announcement provides a strong foundation to apply these balanced principles across the Northwest forests and help demonstrate that we can both protect old growth and provide sustainable timber jobs while restoring the health of our forests.”
During that trip, Salazar discussed the 150 timber sales planned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the next two years in Oregon, including a target of 197 million board feet of proposed sales in western Oregon in FY 2013. Salazar announced that as part of this target, the BLM will plan for at least five additional timber sales (totaling approximately 15 million board feet) using ecological forestry principles. In addition– as part of the commitment to restoring healthy habitat and providing sustainable timber harvest and revenues – the BLM will undertake Resource Management Plan revisions which will provide goals, objectives, and direction for the management of approximately 2,500,000 acres of BLM-administered lands in western Oregon.
Interior is also working closely with USDA’s Forest Service, which recently announced steps to improve forest restoration through active management and increase forest products sold by the National Forests from 2.4 billion board feet in 2011 to 3 billion board feet no later than 2014.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat proposal recognizes the need for active management of forests and provides a solid scientific foundation for work that needs to be done to improve forest health," said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “Increased restoration work will benefit the environment and people, with more resilient ecosystems and improved wildlife habitats while providing outputs of forest products that contribute to local economies.”
Critical Habitat Proposal
Today’s proposal – which is based on the best available science and the revised 2011 Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl – identifies lands that are potentially eligible for critical habitat designation, but does not mean that they will be included in the final designation. Over the coming months the Service will conduct an economic analysis, assess scientific information, and receive public input that will help inform which of these potential areas may be included in the final critical habitat. The proposal 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.
“The science is telling us that unmanaged, fire-prone forests aren’t healthy for either the landscape or the spotted owl,” said Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe. “In fact, the Fish and Wildlife Service is strongly recommending an active forest management approach – like the forestry practices that the Forest Service and BLM are expanding - to restore forest health, increase resilience, and foster diversity.”
Critical habitat designation only pertains to federal activities in designated areas. Critical habitat designations do not provide additional protection on non-federal lands unless proposed activities involve federal funding or permitting.
Today’s critical habitat proposal revises a 2008 critical habitat designation in response to a court order.
Barred Owl Control
A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) also announced today 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.
If the barred owl removal experiment proceeds and the effects of removal are positive, the Service may consider the feasibility and efficacy of barred owl removal on a broader scale. This action would involve a separate National Environmental Policy Act process. For more information about the barred owl draft EIS, click here.