Experimental Program Announced to Protect Spotted Owl

Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comments on Possible Experimental Removal of Barred Owls - Recovery Plan Identified Barred Owls as Significant Threat to Spotted Owl Recovery

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is preparing an environmental analysis of possible experimental removal of barred owls from three areas in Oregon and Washington, to determine if the removal benefits northern spotted owls. The agency is seeking public comments on the scope of the analysis that should be carried out; that is, what are the biological, social, economic and environmental effects that should be studied before the agency decides whether to conduct the experiments. The announcement will be published in the Federal Register on December 10, 2009.

“We will decide whether to conduct experimental removal of barred owls only after this open, transparent review of the effects those experiments might have,” said Paul Henson, the Fish and Wildlife Service supervisor in Oregon. “Removing individuals of a common species to benefit a species in peril is something the Fish and Wildlife Service does when necessary, but we will not proceed with this experimental removal until we better understand – and document – the environmental effects of doing it.”

“Further,” he said, “we want to be very clear that this environmental review and decision process only applies to scientific experiments on the effects of removal. If we learn enough from the experiments we will begin another decision process, complete with additional public review and input, before we would decide whether to control barred owls as a management strategy.”

The environmental analysis will be documented in an environmental impact statement (EIS). The first step is to determine the scope of the analysis, which will be followed by preparation and release of a draft EIS. Public comment will be sought on that document when it is published. Eventually a final EIS will be prepared and released, which will inform the decision on whether, or how, to proceed with experimental removal of barred owls.

Information or comments may be sent to Field Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 S.E. 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266, or faxed to 503-231-6195. Please identify all comments or information as pertaining to the barred owl EIS. Comments should be received by close of business on Monday, January 11, 2010.

The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) inhabits structurally complex forests from British Columbia through western Washington, Oregon and northern California. The U.S. population of the owl was listed as a threatened species in 1990, because of widespread loss of habitat and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to conserve the owl. A draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl was completed in 1992 but not finalized due to the development of the Northwest Forest Plan, which served a similar purpose. The final recovery plan released in 2008 identified barred owls and habitat loss as the greatest threats to the species’ continued existence. This final plan is currently under review to consider new information.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov


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