spotted owl

Province of British Columbia / Flickr

The federal government has moved a step closer to designating the northern spotted owl an endangered species. The owl has been listed as threatened for a quarter-century, but its numbers continue to decline. The California-based Environmental Protection Information Center, or EPIC, petitioned to have the owl reclassified, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that its initial review justifies considering that request. It will publish official notice Friday.

A change in the owl’s status might not have a huge effect on regulations, which were overhauled as part of the Northwest Forest Plan during the 1990s. But EPIC legal coordinator Tom Wheeler said the change would strengthen the regulators’ hands.

One of the northwest’s most controversial birds is still ruffling feathers. The elusive spotted owl was at the heart of the timber wars here in the 1990s. Some scientists are criticizing the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to log some of the bird’s habitat.

Big Dipper 2 / Flickr

Dozens of prominent environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth are asking President Obama for help protecting old-growth forests in the northwest.

Steve Holmer, with the American Bird Conservancy, says a new rule designating critical habitat for the northern spotted owl has loopholes.

caroltlw photo / Flickr

In the long saga to protect the northern spotted owl, it's now officially "owl vs owl."

US Fish and Wildlife says the decline of the iconic northwest species can’t be helped without killing some of its more aggressive cousins, the barred owl.

It’s part of a court-ordered plan to increase the spotted owl’s forest habitat.

Associated Press

A new plan released yesterday for saving the northern spotted owl is taking aim – maybe literally – at a rival bird.

Federal agency leaders said Thursday the spotted owl is losing out to a bigger, more aggressive invader from the eastern United States, the barred owl.

However, one biologist whose research led to the listing of the spotted owl believes shooting and other measures to control the barred owl are too little too late.  Because, he lamented, the spotted owl's population has shrunk over the last 15 years in spite of conservation efforts. (Interactive map inside)

Photo by Jim Thrailkill / USFWS

It’s an icon of the northwest.

With its muted brown feathers and dark eyes, the northern spotted owl doesn’t look all that impressive. But scientists say its survival indicates the health of the entire forest ecosystem. That’s why conservationists want the government to protect more of the old-growth habitat spotted owls prefer.

But a recovery plan for the owl due for release this morning is ruffing feathers.