Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


Contact: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Group Starts Give a Hoot For Owls Campaign

Volunteers in 27 Cities, a Dozen States Will Educate Public About
Real-Life Threats To Owls, Starting Opening Weekend of “Hoot”

San Francisco, Calif. – This weekend the Center for Biological Diversity (Center) is launching a nationwide “Give a Hoot” campaign to protect imperiled owls, an event that coincides with the release of the major motion picture Hoot. Based on a novel by Carl Hiaasen, Hoot is an “eco-thriller” about teenagers who take on Florida developers that are destroying habitat for owls. As part of the campaign, more than 100 volunteers in at least 27 cities and a dozen states will educate moviegoers about the real-life plight of vanishing owls and other endangered wildlife, and collect petition signatures supporting their protection.

“Unfortunately, destruction of habitat for rare owls is not only part of a novel or Hollywood script. Imperiled owls throughout the country are threatened by bulldozers clearing land for urban sprawl and chainsaws cutting into old-growth forests,” said Jeff Miller, wildlife advocate with the Center.

Give a Hoot volunteers will spread the word about the conservation of owls and the opportunities to take action to protect their last habitat. Volunteers are participating in at least 15 cities in California, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, Fremont, Antioch, Woodland, Carmel, Idyllwild, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Diego, Grand Terrace and Bakersfield. Volunteers are also signed up in Portland and Waldport, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Ironton, Missouri; Bloomington, Indiana; Houston, Minnesota; Leicester, North Carolina; Fords, New Jersey; Long Island, New York; and Camden, Maine.

”The Center has been extensively involved in protecting owls for more than a decade. It is our hope that Hoot will help inspire a new generation to join in this effort,” said Peter Galvin, Conservation Director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to stand up for the little guys and give a hoot for owls.”

PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE: Participants will have owl costumes and other visuals at several locations, including San Francisco and Santa Barbara. More information is available by phone.


Western Burrowing Owl
The western burrowing owl is a small, 7- to 10-inch ground-nesting bird that inhabits burrows dug by ground squirrels in California. Burrowing owls were once among the most common bird species in California, particularly in the Central Valley and coastal grasslands from Marin County to San Diego. Burrowing owls are vanishing throughout California as they are being forcibly evicted from their burrows and their grassland habitat is being bulldozed to make way for urban sprawl. Widespread poisoning of ground squirrels also deprives owls of suitable nest burrows. Burrowing owl breeding colonies in California have been declining 8 percent annually and breeding owls are now completely or nearly eliminated from 15 counties – one-quarter of their California range.

No state or federal laws adequately protect burrowing owl habitat and a large percentage of the state’s burrowing owls are on unprotected land at risk of development. In 2003, the Center and other conservation groups petitioned to list the burrowing owl under the California Endangered Species Act, but the state rejected the petition and refused to act. The Center is now working on a new listing petition.

Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is a tiny three-ounce bird that inhabits deserts and riparian forests in southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. Only 13 pygmy owls are known to survive in Arizona, and development has reduced their habitat to an area between Tucson and the border. Some of the pygmy owl’s most vital Arizona habitat is located in the ironwood forests of northwest Tucson and Marana – an area also coveted by developers and threatened by dozens of construction projects. The Center’s efforts resulted in protection of the pygmy owl as an endangered species in 1997 and designation of critical habitat in 2002. The listing spurred several positive wildlife conservation efforts, including restrictions on development in the owl’s critical habitat and a Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Developers filed a lawsuit in 2001 to overturn both the pygmy-owl listing and critical habitat protections. A court removed the critical habitat but left the endangered listing in place. Despite the fact that the owl is near extinction in Arizona and government biologists recommending that the owl remain protected, the Bush administration proposed removing the pygmy owl from the endangered species list and plans to strip all protections in May 2006. The Center and other conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2006 to challenge this decision.

Spotted Owls
The Center has been working to protect the Mexican spotted owl and its old-growth habitat in the Southwest for over 13 years, first petitioning to list the species under the Endangered Species Act in 1989. The continuing decline of the Mexican spotted owl mirrors the declining health of Southwestern old-growth forests and riparian areas. Logging of ancient forests, domestic livestock grazing, and a century of fire suppression have reduced Mexican spotted owl populations to only 2,000 known owls. The California spotted owl lives in old-growth forests in the Sierra Nevada that have been decimated by over a century of logging, road building and development. The Center petitioned to list the California spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act in 2000.

Endangered Species Act Under Attack
The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and Mexican spotted owl are among hundreds of imperiled species that have benefited from the protections afforded by the federal Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for fish, wildlife and plants on the brink of extinction. Earlier this year, the first report ever to assess the success of the Act based on empirical population trend data found that the Act has a 100 percent success rate at preventing extinction, and a 93 percent success rate in increasing population sizes and distribution in the northeastern United States (see

One of the most important ways to ensure that endangered species recover is to protect the habitats in which they live. The Act accomplishes this by designating and providing special protection to “critical habitat” for a species. Critical habitat protection works: scientists have shown that species with critical habitats protected are twice as likely to be recovering as those without critical habitat protected.

In September 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 3824, introduced by Richard Pombo (R-CA), which would systematically remove every proven recovery tool from the Endangered Species Act. It’s companion, Senate bill S. 2110, would completely derail the endangered species listing program, remove protections for endangered species habitat, and cut federal oversight of projects that threaten endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a science-based nonprofit organization that works to protect endangered species and wild places throughout the world through science, policy, education, citizen activism and environmental law. The Center has more than 24,000 members and 10 offices throughout the country.

For more information on the Give a Hoot campaign, visit or


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