April 23, 2013

California considers owl listing

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

The Northern spotted owl has long been a controversial species (or rather, subspecies) in the Pacific Northwest, largely because the protections it receives under the federal Endangered Species Act have helped to destroy the region’s timber industry.  (Litigation over the owl’s critical habitat continues).  Could the same thing happen in California?

Last fall, the Environmental Protection Information Center petitioned the California Fish & Game Commission to list the owl under the California Endangered Species Act.  The Commission heard the petition last week, but decided to push the decision whether to accept the petition for further review (which action would make the owl a candidate species and trigger CESA protection) to the Commission’s August meeting.  But, based on the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s positive review of EPIC’s petition, candidate listing may be likely.  Although the Department’s review criticizes EPIC’s petition for various inaccuracies and for little California-specific analysis, the review nevertheless concludes that some California owl populations may not be doing well owing to loss of habitat from timbering and wildlife, as well as direct and indirect threats from the barred owl, an East Coast cousin of the NSO that has been moving westward for the last half-century.

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