Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 15, 2015

Contact: Justin Augustine, (503) 910-9214,

Lawsuit Challenges 'Stacked Deck' in Committee Creating Sierra Nevada Owl Plan

WASHINGTONThe Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit to include more owl experts and conservationists on a U.S. Forest Service committee that’s creating a long-term conservation strategy for California spotted owls in the Sierra Nevada region. The lawsuit, filed under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, also seeks more transparency in the committee’s work, such as open meetings.

Despite overwhelming published science showing that spotted owls are in a steep decline on public lands managed by the Forest Service, the agency wants to increase logging of spotted owl habitat. To that end the U.S. Forest Service has been conducting closed-door meetings and has refused to include some of the foremost spotted owl experts in creating the agency’s so-called “conservation strategy” for the owls. The strategy is important because it will likely become a core component of the revised forest plans being developed for national forests throughout the Sierra Nevada and will affect millions of acres.

“California spotted owls are already in steep decline, and more logging will only push them closer to the edge. It’s critical that any discussion about saving them include plenty of experts with deep knowledge of the species so we can get this right,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center. “Right now the committee simply doesn’t have the right mix for a plan that will truly protect these amazing birds.”

The Federal Advisory Committee Act was created, in part, to prevent agencies from stacking the deck in their favor when seeking advice or recommendations from a committee that includes nonfederal members. The Center repeatedly asked the Forest Service to open its California spotted owl conservation strategy to greater participation by owl experts, and to allow public participation in the committee’s meetings and actions, but the agency refused. 

“The Forest Service’s closed-door policy for spotted owl conservation must end,” said Augustine. “It’s time for an open and robust dialogue that puts owls first and foremost.”

California spotted owls recently received a positive 90-day finding under the Endangered Species Act that determined that protecting the owls may be necessary in light of their ongoing decline and threats to their Sierra forest habitat from logging and climate change. On private lands, owl habitat is repeatedly destroyed by widespread clear-cutting, while on federal national forest lands, mechanical treatments and post-fire logging decimate owl habitat. The most recent analyses of the owls’ status show they are in decline everywhere in the Sierras except on national park lands, where logging is prohibited.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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