Standing Up for the Northern Spotted Owl


petition submitted by EPIC in August 2012 requesting increased protections for the Northern Spotted Owl. EPIC’s petition presents substantial information that the Northern Spotted Owl’s conservation status should be changed from the present “threatened” listing to an “endangered” listing. The ESA requires that the Service respond within 90 days and determine whether to undertake a more in depth status review of the species. The federal government’s failure to meet this deadline is unjustified. EPIC intends to prosecute the agency and officials responsible for this delay and to secure a timeline from federal court requiring the agency meet statutory deadlines.

The Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) has been listed under the ESA as “threatened” since 1990. By definition, a threatened species is “. . . likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” 16 U.S.C. §1531. Despite more than 20 years of protections, the Northern Spotted Owl is now closer to extinction than ever. Recently, spotted owl biologists have published a comprehensive analysis that determined the species has been declining on seven of eleven active demographic study areas at about 3% annually range-wide from 1985-2008, and that the decline is accelerating in recent years (Forsman et al. 2011). The rate of decline is steepest in northern Oregon and Washington, where spotted owl populations would decline by more than half in the next 20 years. On the remaining federal lands, population decline is accelerating and vital rates are deteriorating (Forsman et al. 2011). On non-federal lands, including areas that once provided some of the highest quality habitat for