Revised Critical Habitat for Northern Spotted Owl Released

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a final revised designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act for the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) totaling approximately 5.3 million acres of federal land in the northwest United States. This includes the designation of approximately 1.8 million acres in Washington, 2.3 million acres in Oregon and 1.2 million acres in California.

The critical habitat designation is based on the draft and final recovery plans for the northern spotted owl. The resulting network of conservation areas is designed to support a stable number of breeding pairs of northern spotted owls over time and to allow for their movement across the network.

In federal forests west of the Cascade Mountains’ crest, the designation overlays the owl conservation areas identified in the final recovery plan, released in May 2008. In fire-prone forests east of the Cascade crest, the critical habitat designation follows the owl conservation areas delineated in the 2007 draft recovery plan. This is because the final recovery plan, following the advice of expert peer reviews, adopts a broad-scale, “landscape management” approach to owl conservation in eastside forests and does not delineate specific conservation areas. By law, a critical habitat designation must delineate specific geographic areas.

These revisions of the original 1992 critical habitat designation, which totaled nearly 6.9 million acres, also reflect information gathered through advanced mapping and modeling technologies, which resulted in a more precise definition of owl conservation areas.  Changes in land management since the original designation, such as Northwest Forest Plan reserves, also contributed to the new critical habitat designation.

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