ACTION TIMELINE

December 21, 1989 – The Center filed a petition to protect the Mexican spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act.

March 16, 1993 – The Mexican spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

February 14, 1994 – The Center filed suit to obtain critical habitat; a court subsequently ordered the same.

June 6, 1995 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 4.6 million acres of critical habitat for the spotted owl on the Southwest's 11 national forests. Meanwhile, the Center sued the Forest Service for failing to consult on the effects of the 11 regional forest plans on the owl.

1996 – Timber proponents sued to strike down critical habitat for lack of review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Meanwhile, the Forest Service amended all 11 plans to incorporate the Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan, but grandfathered in all ongoing logging and grazing, making it exempt from the added protections of the newly revised plans. The Center sued the Forest Service.

1997 – The 1995 critical habitat designation was withdrawn because of a legal technicality. Meanwhile, Center legal battles halted all logging in the Southwest for 16 months before forcing the Forest Service to implement the federal recovery plan.

1999 – The Center sued to have critical habitat reinstated after the Service refused to do so on its own.

2000 – A judge ordered the Service to re-designate critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, citing systematic delays by the federal agency.

2001 – The Center filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Service after the agency decided the best habitat for the Mexican spotted owl should not be included in its critical habitat designation. After obtaining the support of several other organizations, the Center issued a second letter of intent to sue — after which we proceeded to file suit again.

October 2, 2003 – When Interior Secretary Gale Norton refused to comply with a court order to designate critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, the judge ordered “immediate and expedited” compliance.

August 31, 2004 – The owl’s critical habitat was expanded to 8,647,749 acres.

February 5, 2008 – After the Center intervened in a lawsuit by the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association challenging the owl’s 2004 critical habitat designation, a federal court confirmed the validity of the 2004 final rule and upheld critical habitat protection.

July 6, 2009 – The Center, the Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians sued the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to block a logging project slated for forests burned by the Warm Fire on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon. The project would remove large trees from 3,460 acres of Mexican spotted owl critical habitat.

June 4, 2010 – The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down an appeal by the Arizona Cattle Growers Association challenging the 2008 district court ruling that upheld the validity of the owl’s 2004 critical habitat designation.

July 20, 2010 – The Center sued the U.S. Forest Service for failing to monitor and protect habitat and endangered species in Arizona and New Mexico national forests — including the southwestern willow flycatcher, New Mexico ridge-nosed rattlesnake, Chiricahua leopard frog, Apache trout, loach minnow, Mexican spotted owl and spikedace.

December 17, 2012 – The Service released a final revised “recovery plan” for Mexican spotted owls that actually weakened protections for the bird laid out in its original 1995 recovery plan.

Photo © Robin Silver