The US Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday it will use the best scientific data to revise a 2008 Bush administration recovery plan for the northern spotted owl.
PORTLAND — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday it will use the best scientific data to revise a 2008 Bush administration recovery plan for the northern spotted owl.
The draft plan released for public comment said it will take 30 years, rather than 10 years, to recover the threatened bird to the point where it won't need federal protection. The cost to do so is estimated at about $147 million.
"What we're trying to do is get a better handle on where the best habitat is and how to protect it," said Paul Henson, state supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Oregon office and the agency's lead for spotted owl recovery. The plan will result in the highest-value land being identified for the owl, whether private or federal, he added.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., last week ordered revisions to the 2008 recovery plan and associated designation of critical habitat after the Obama administration voluntarily sought to have it sent back. The administration cited an inspector general's report finding the decision-making process was potentially jeopardized by improper political influence.
The draft plan comes 20 years after the medium-sized, dark brown owl was listed as threatened, primarily because of heavy logging in old growth forests.
The bird, which nests and forages in old-growth forests, is in decline in its range of Washington, Oregon and California. Habitat loss and competition from the aggressive, larger barred owl are its biggest threats.
Fish and Wildlife officials had started revising the 2008 recovery plan while awaiting court action, and Henson said Wednesday the agency is on track to meet the court order to compete the plan within nine months. Following that, the agency may revise the owl's designated critical habitat, which had been cut by 1.6 million acres by the Bush administration.
The agency said it weighed comments from leading scientific organizations which raised concerns about the adequacy of the plan. The groups criticized how the 2008 plan set up a network of habitat conservation blocks for the owls. The agency is recommending those areas be withdrawn until better analysis is completed.
Henson also said the agency is "taking a closer look at the potential need for nonfederal land to contribute to recovery."