The northern spotted owl prefers to nest in old-growth forest. The Bush administration wants to open the Pacific Northwest’s old-growth forests to more logging.

How to reconcile this? Simple, says the White House. Claim that the bird needs less habitat.

And if you can’t get any scientists to go along, round up a raft of political appointees in Washington to help out.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to eliminate 1.5 million acres of critical habitat for the ancient-forest-dependent northern spotted owl. The agency on June 12 published a ruling in the Federal Register that would pare down the protected habitat acreage currently provided under the landmark Northwest Forest Plan.

The new rule would cut critical habitat for the owl from its current 6.9 million acres to 5.4 million acres, a reduction of 22 percent.

The proposed reduction in critical habitat is the latest result of an initially science-based consensus plan being overruled and rewritten by an “oversight” committee. This body, convened by the agency in September, 2006, consisted of political appointees from the Bush administration, including former timber industry lobbyist and current Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey and Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Also a member at first was Julie MacDonald, then EPA head who later resigned after an investigation into her partisan interference with the agency.

Faced by public outrage after this blatantly biased panel released its report in April, the Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned an independent review of the draft recovery plan. This review found that, as activists had already pointed out, the oversight committee’s recommendations did not follow the best science, instead selectively citing only data that would support a reduction in spotted owl habitat.

Following the peer review’s report, the deadline for public comments on the new rule has been extended to Friday, Oct. 5.


Write to the Fish and Wildlife Service and urge the agency to withdraw the flawed Draft Spotted Owl Recovery Plan.


I am writing to comment on the proposed critical habitat revision for the northern spotted owl.

Protected critical habitat is crucial to the recovery of threatened and endangered species. Reducing the amount of critical habitat set aside for the northern spotted owl would put the bird at greater risk at a time when the owl’s population is already shrinking and it faces increased competition with other species.

My understanding is that this reduction in critical habitat is based on the recommendations of the so-called Spotted Owl Draft Recovery Plan, a document made meaningless by a review panel of political appointees.

This plan is flawed, and its conclusions are not supported by the best science, as the recent peer review pointed out. Neither option presented in the plan would adequately protect northern spotted owls.

The Draft Recovery Plan should be withdrawn and a new plan drawn up that is based on the recommendations of scientists.


Your name
Your address

Send your comments on the proposed new rule to the Fish and Wildlife Service:

NSO Recovery Plan
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ecological Services
911 NE 11th Ave.
Portland, OR 97232

Email to:

(If you send your comments by email, be sure to include “Attn., northern spotted owl critical habitat” in the subject header.)

Read the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places