May 16, 2008
Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Released
The Fish and Wildlife Service released the final recovery plan for the northern spotted owl today, emphasizing forest conservation and reducing the threat of rival barred owls. The plan identifies 34 recovery actions necessary to address the risks from the barred owl, timber harvest and catastrophic wildfires. The recovery plan estimates that it will take 30 years and nearly $ 500 million to reach the goal of delisting the spotted owl. However, due to the continued decline in population during the Northwest Forest Plan, the recovery plan calls for immediate actions during the next 10 years.
The plan for the western Cascades is to create a network of 133 Managed Owl Conservation Areas with 6.4 million acres of federal land. In addition, the plan suggests the Forest Service and BLM maintain older, complex forests outside the MOCAs to provide a buffer between barred owl and spotted owl populations. In the eastern Cascades, the plan does not envision a connected network because of wildfires and insect infestation, but instead relies on protecting spotted owl habitat in patches.
As specified in the plan, its long-term objectives are:
• Spotted owl populations are sufficiently large and distributed such that the species no longer requires listing under the ESA.
• Adequate habitat is available for spotted owls and will continue to exist to allow the species to persist without the protection of the ESA.
• The effects of threats have been reduced or eliminated such that spotted owl populations are stable or increasing and spotted owls are unlikely to become threatened again in the foreseeable future.
The "interim expectations" for the next 10 years are:
• The Barred Owl Work Group has quantified the threats from the barred owl on the spotted owl, control techniques and appropriate implementation plans have been developed, and a decision on managing barred owls has been made.
• The MOCA network has been established in the western Provinces with appropriate management of habitat-capable lands inside the MOCAs to support spotted owls.
• The Dry-Forest Landscape Work Group has developed, and Federal land management agencies have initiated and are implementing, a comprehensive program to restore ecological processes and functions, thus reducing the potential for significant habitat loss by stand-replacement fires, insects, and disease.
The final plan is already under attack from both conservation and timber groups for lack of detail about the type and amount of older forests that will be preserved in buffer ranges.
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