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Saving Northern Spotted Owls From Post-fire Logging

The Center and allies filed suit in federal court on August 1, 2014, against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permitting the killing of two dozen threatened northern spotted owls in post-fire timber sales near Glendale, Ore.

In a biological opinion, the Service permitted the Medford District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to “take” — harm, harass or kill — 24 individual spotted owls, including 10 juveniles, in the Burnt Rattler, Rockstar and Rogue Cow timber sales. 

The sales would log 1,189 acres, much of it in the threatened raptor’s critical habitat, which was burned by the 2013 Douglas Complex fires.

Spotted owls evolved with forest fires, but without industrial timber harvest. They cannot survive logging of their habitat after fire. Scientific research published by Oregon State University biologists found that logging after fire greatly increases extinction rates of spotted owls — more than fire itself.

The lawsuit points out that federal biologists disregarded their own recovery plan for the imperiled bird, which requires protection of nesting areas from logging after fire.

This is an extraordinarily high number of owl families to be killed in a sensitive area.  The local forest is badly fragmented, and critical habitat is in short supply.

The Center is joined in our lawsuit by co-plaintiffs Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and Jordan Beckett.


Juvenile northern spotted owl photo courtesy Cascadia Wiladlands