The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice: 206.343.7340 x33  / 
Shawn Cantrell, Seattle Audubon Society: 206.359.1363  / 
Ivan Maluski, Sierra Club: 503-238-0442, x304  / 
Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy: 202.234.7181 x216  / 
Dr. Dominick DellaSala, NCCSP: 541.482.4459 x302  / 
Nina Carter, National Audubon Society: 360.789.0792  / 
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity: 503.484.7495  / 
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland: 503.292.6855  / 
Randi Spivak, American Lands: 202.547.9029  / 

Conservation Groups Move to Rebuild Spotted Owl Population and Protect Old-Growth Forests

Effort begun to reverse weak habitat protection and flawed recovery plan in Pacific Northwest


Conservation groups challenged inadequate protections for northern
spotted owls today in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The
groups asked the court for permission to intervene in an ongoing timber
industry lawsuit which is aimed at weakening owl protections in order
to log more western mature and old-growth forests.

The conservation groups say the Bush administration violated the
Endangered Species Act when it slashed the amount of forest protected
as critical habitat for the owls by about 1.6 million acres. The Bush
administration reduced protected habitat in spite of warnings from
scientists that spotted owl populations have been declining by 4
percent a year for the past 15 years. Much of the decline in owl
populations is due to the logging of mature and old-growth forests
needed by owls to survive.

The Bush administration justified reducing owl critical habitat on the
basis of a scientifically discredited plan to recover owls, which the
conservation groups are also challenging. This is part of an overall
trend of political interference in science decisions by the
Administration, with dozens of cases currently under investigation.

"The critical habitat reduction and unscientific recovery plan ignore
years of scientific study and public opinion finding our old-growth
forests need to be protected," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with
Earthjustice representing 18 national and regional conservation
organizations in the legal action. "We need to reverse these actions
and restore scientifically based protection for Pacific Northwest
wildlife and natural areas."

"We are pressing for a more sensible approach to managing Northwest
forests," said Shawn Cantrell, Executive Director with Seattle Audubon.
"Protecting mature and old-growth forests is about owls and more -- it
is key to protecting rivers and streams, drinking water, and outdoor
recreation, a major economic contributor for local communities across
the region."

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed northern spotted owls as a
threatened species in 1990 and originally protected its critical
habitat in 1992. Only 15-20 percent of the original old-growth forests
remain throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to providing
critical habitat for spotted owls, salmon, steelhead and other species,
mature and old growth forests are important sources of clean water and
help reduce global warming.

A copy of the request to intervene and complaint are available here.

Intervention motion: