January 01, 2016

A Case Study for the Implementation of Recovery Plans to Conserve Listed Species

Susan Jane M. Brown and Jordan Beckett

The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) (NSO or spotted owl) is perhaps the most studied bird in the world. It is so well known—many would say infamous—in large part because of the magnificent Pacific Northwestern ancient forests it requires to survive. Unfortunately, as the spotted owl’s habitat has been lost to timber harvest and natural disturbance, such as wildfire, the northern spotted owl has spiraled toward extinction. The NSO is listed as “threatened,” but is currently proposed to be downlisted to “endangered,” due in large part to widespread habitat loss via logging and an increased threat from invading barred owls. Despite herculean federal efforts to preserve the species, federal agencies, such as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or Service), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and United States Forest Service, continue to authorize federal actions that undermine the recovery of this threatened species, which continues to decline precipitously. It need not be this way, and in fact, the law plainly states that Congress did not intend it to be so.

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