Photo by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts
The Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is one of the most iconic species in the Pacific Northwest. The Strix occidentalis caurina is an umbrella species representing hundreds of rare plants and animals that depend on old-growth and mature forests for survival. Thirty years ago it was protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was responsible for spurring the creation of the Northwest Forest Plan and changing national forest management on nearly 25 million acres in Washington, Oregon and California. Three decades later, the spiral toward extinction is accelerating.
In the first two decades since it was listed under the ESA, four million acres of habitat was lost due to logging and one million acres by wildfire. The most recent region wide study, completed in 2016, found that the owl was nearly gone from most of its northern range and was declining at a rate of 4% per year. The last NSO in the Redwood National and State Parks was recorded in 2010. This leaves only the Klamath Siskiyou region to serve as a vital source population for the entire three state area.
What is most concerning is that habitat loss and “take” of the owl to accommodate logging on both public and private lands is still occurring at an unhindered pace. Within just the past five years over 50,000 acres of habitat loss and degradation and over two hund