Fish and Wildlife Service Says Goodbye to Spotted Owl Assistance in California

Photo by Jeff Muskgrave

So long, and thanks for all the technical assistance! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced it will no longer provide technical assistance to private timberland owners in California to ensure Timber Harvest Plans and other logging plans avoid “take” of the federally-threatened northern spotted owl. The announcement closes a 19-year chapter in which the federal wildlife agency has provided private timberland owners and the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) with biological review of THPs and other state-sanctioned logging permitting frameworks aimed at avoiding “take” of the spotted owl.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally listed the spotted owl as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990, and began formally offering assistance to CAL FIRE and private timberland owners in California as of 1999 at the request of then-California Secretary of Natural Resources, Mary Nichols. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began to scale back its technical assistance program for private timberlands in California in 2008, handing the brunt of the day-to-day work of ensuring spotted owl “take” avoidance over to CAL FIRE, the lead agency responsible for approval of private timberland THPs and other similar logging projects that could adversely impact northern spotted owls.