Owl Extinction Danger Grows as Feds Exempt three.four Million Acres from Safety

The outoing Administration in its final days filed a new Northern Spotted Owl critical habitat rule that has the potential to hasten the extinction of this declining subspecies. A revision of the critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act, the rule originally proposed to exempt only about 200,000 acres from critical habitat protections. However, the final rule instead exempts 3.4 million acres — a huge expanse of territory totaling about one-third of the owl’s protected habitat.

 The Northern Spotted Owl inhabits only northern California and the Pacific Northwest. This decision comes on the heels of a determination that the owl is already moving toward extinction, even before this loss of habitat protection.

Spotted Owl (Mexican subspecies, Arizona, copyright Ian Merrill, from the surfbirds galleries

“This rule poses a severe threat to the Northern Spotted Owl and another threatened bird depending on old-growth foreststhe Marbled Murrelet,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Just last month, federal scientists concluded that the rapidly declining population of Northern Spotted Owl should have its status changed from Threatened to Endangered. Instead, this new rule puts the owl at even greater risk.”

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