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Enviros Sue Feds To Protect The California Spotted Owl

The California spotted owl lives in old forest habitat in the western Sierra Nevada and mountains to the south.
Tim Demers
US Fish and Wildlife Service
The California spotted owl lives in old forest habitat in the western Sierra Nevada and mountains to the south.

Several conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against federal wildlife managers for not approving endangered species protections for the California spotted owl.

The suit alleges the decision last year not to list the owl under the federal Endangered Species Act was contrary to scientific evidence and therefore illegal.

Noah Greenwald, with the Oakland-based Center for Biological Diversity, says the US Fish and Wildfire Service’s own research documents the need for protection.

"They concluded that it’s likely to be lost from the Southern California ranges, and that it’s likely to decline in the Sierra Nevada, that it faces multiple threats, climate change, logging, the barred owl," he says. "When you look at the ongoing declines, you look at the loss in range that’s predicted and the threats that it faces, it just doesn’t make any sense that they would deny it protection."

The California spotted owl inhabits the western Sierra Nevada Range and mountains to the south. And, like its cousin the northern spotted owl, whose listing in 19-90 led to cuts in logging on public lands in the Northwest, it needs intact old forest habitats to thrive.

The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the California owl is declining, but doesn’t warrant Endangered Species Act protection.

The suit asks the court to reject the agency’s conclusions and require it to come back with a new decision within six months.

Federal officials declined to comment on the suit.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.