The Outoing Administration has in its final days submitted a new critical habitat rule for owls in the north that may accelerate the extinction of this declining subspecies. A revision of the critical habitat designation for the owl in the north under the Endangered Species Act originally proposed that only about 200,000 acres be cleared against the protection of critical habitats. However, the last rule instead frees 3.4 million acres – a huge area that accounts for about a third of the owl’s protected habitat.
The Northern Spotted Owl lives only in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. This decision follows on from the finding that the owl is already nearing extinction, even before this loss of habitat protection.
Spotted Owl (Mexican subspecies, Arizona, Copyright Ian Merrill, from the Surfbirds Galleries
“This rule poses a serious threat to the owl and one other endangered bird, depending on the forests with old growth, the Marbled Murrelet, ”said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Just last month, federal scientists concluded that the status of the rapidly declining owl population in the north should be changed from threatened to endangered. Instead, this new rule puts the owl at even greater risk. “