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 spotted owl
populations to only 2,000 known owls.
Center for Biological Diversity has been working to protect
the Mexican spotted owl and its old-growth habitat for over
13 years. While much has been accomplished, the struggle
preserve our remaining old-growth and stop the spotted owl's
slide towards extinction is far from over . . .
studies support the listing of the Mexican spotted owl
as threatened. Based on estimates of vital rates and owl
abundance, we have strong evidence of population declines."
Seamans, M.E. R.J. Gutièrrez, C.A. May,
and M.Z. Peery. 1999. Demography of two Mexican spotted
owl populations. Conservation Biology
13 (4): 744-754
mysterious and beautiful Mexican spotted owl is the Southwest's
most famous old-growth denizen. The spotted owls' scientific
name, Strix occidentalis, translates to "owl of the west"—an
appropriate name for a species found from southern Utah and
Colorado through the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, and
Texas southward into the mountains of Central Mexico. Nearly
90% of known owl territories exist on Forest Service administered-lands
in Arizona and New Mexico.
the other two subspecies of spotted owl, California
and Northern, Strix occidentalis lucida has suffered
extensive population declines, primarily resulting from extensive
logging of ancient forests, associated roadbuilding, and other
forest development. It has also been negatively impacted by
domestic livestock grazing and the widespread devastation
grazing has had on the rare and invaluable riparian forests
of the Southwest.
the late 80's, at the height of the logging industry's and
Forest Service's destruction of National Forest lands, only
2,000 Mexican spotted owls were estimated to remain in the
world. Recognizing that the owl would soon be extinct if immediate
action was not taken, Dr. Robin Silver of the Center for Biological
Diversity petitioned to have the species listed under the
Endangered Species Act in 1989. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
agreed that the petition was warranted, and the owl was listed
as Threatened in March, 1993.
these successes, spotted owl populations continue to decline
and the agencies responsible for its protection continue to
favor extractive and commercial interests at the expense of
this magnificent and mysterious species. Worsening the situation,
the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service have failed
to develop and implement long-term population monitoring studies
of spotted owl populations; as a result, no one know how many
owls exist today or what its population trends are.
independent research has documented spotted owl populations
on the Gila and Coconino National Forests as declining by
at least 10% per year between the years 1991-1997. Since the
two populations are approximately 200 miles apart, the researchers
believe the entire metapopulation may be declining. Unfortunately
the scientists have also continued to detect dwindling populations
since 1997. Alarmingly, no owls successfully reproduced in
the Gila study area last year.