Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 11, 2016

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

Lawsuit Launched to Protect California Spotted Owls Under Endangered Species Act

OAKLAND, Calif.The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to protect California spotted owls under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups petitioned for the owls’ protection in December 2014, but the agency has failed to issue a decision on whether they warrant protection. The owls are in steep decline on national forest and private lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; they face a host of threats, including clearcutting on private lands and commercial and post-fire logging on public lands, as well as climate change, development and competition from the barred owls that are now increasingly present in the Sierras.

California spotted owl
Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service. This photo is available for media use.

“For too long California spotted owls have suffered at the hands of the Forest Service and timber companies,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney at the Center. “In light of the ongoing declines of spotted owl populations on our national forest lands, it’s urgent to protect these beautiful birds under the Endangered Species Act and allow them to recover.”

In September 2015 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive decision on the petition to protect the owls, but the agency is now more than one year late in issuing the “12-month finding” that will propose or deny listing under the Act. The Center’s lawsuit will require the agency to commit to a legally binding date to make a final decision. While the agency delays the decision, the Forest Service and private timber companies continue with plans to increase logging of spotted owl habitat, despite the published science showing that spotted owls are in serious decline.

The Center first petitioned for protection of California spotted owls in 2000 and has filed multiple lawsuits to gain protection for the imperiled birds. These owls were once common in old-growth forests throughout the Sierras; the most recent analyses of their status show they are in decline everywhere in the Sierras except on national park lands, where logging is prohibited.

“California spotted owls rely on the Sierra’s majestic conifer forests, which Californians and other folks from around the world dearly love for hiking, swimming, bird-watching and relaxation,” said Augustine. “Protecting spotted owls will not only give these amazing birds the help they desperately need, it will also provide priceless benefits to everyone who enjoys the Sierras.”



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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