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California Finalizes Listing of Northern Spotted Owl

EPIC’s Forest and Wildlife Advocate Rob Diperna at the Fish and Game Commission Hearing 6/21/17 advocating for listing northern spotted owls under the California Endangered Species Act.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt findings to support its August 2016 decision that listing the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), as a “threatened” species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) is warranted. At its regularly-scheduled meeting on June 21, 2017 in Smith River, CA, the Commission ratified and formalized its decision that the spotted owl warrants protection and conservation under California State Law, ending a nearly five-year listing process that began in August 2012 with a listing petition brought by EPIC.

Why Do Findings Matter?

Findings might seem like a dry matter, but they are critically important. The findings adopted by the Commission reflect the reasons why the Commission acted. Knowing this, the timber industry attempted to manipulate the findings to state that their bad behavior plays no role in the owls’ decline. At the meeting, timber industry lobbyists were in full force, pleading with the Commission to find that their logging does not harm the spotted owl and instead point all the blame at the threat posed by competitive barred owls (Strix varina). Despite their pleas, the Commission nevertheless unanimously ratified its listing decision which maintained that logging is a prime cause of spotted owl decline.

In the interceding months from the August 2016 listing decision and now, California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff have been traveling around the state meeting with interested stakeholders, including EPIC staff, to discuss possible needs to address both barred owl and ongoing habitat loss and modification on private forestlands in the State.

In the wake of the Commission’s decision, EPIC is poised to re-engage the California Board of Forestry, which in 2013 declined an EPIC-sponsored petition to change forest practice rules pertaining to protection of spotted owls during the course of private lands timber operations on the basis that the Board did not want to “muddy the waters,” or confuse the decision pending before the Commission regarding the listing.

Vigilance, tenacity, and hard-hitting no-nonsense advocacy: as always, EPIC gets results.


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