Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 16, 2016

Contact: Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185,

Lawsuit Seeks to Protect California Spotted Owls Under Endangered Species Act

OAKLAND, Calif.The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking much-needed protection for the imperiled California spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act. These owls are jeopardized on national forest and private lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains by clear-cutting and post-fire logging, as well as climate change, urban development and competition from barred owls. A decision on whether to protect the owls under the Endangered Species Act was due in January of this year, but the Service has yet to act.

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

“The Endangered Species Act has proven to be the critical difference in saving our wildlife species in decline, and its protections are urgently needed for California spotted owls and the old-growth forests they depend on,” said the Center’s Jeff Miller. “If we want to have spotted owls in our Sierra Nevada and Southern California forests in the future, the Service needs to protect this majestic species immediately.”

California spotted owls live in mature conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada and Southern California. As with their northern spotted owl relatives, these owls’ old-growth forest habitat continues to be decimated by logging. Recent surveys show spotted owls are in serious decline everywhere in the Sierras except on national park lands, where logging is prohibited. The majority of conifer forests in the Sierras managed by the U.S. Forest Service and private timber companies are subjected to intensive logging, threatening the owl’s future survival.

The California spotted owl is one of 10 species the Center is prioritizing this year for Endangered Species Act protection decisions. Under a 2011 settlement agreement with the Service, the Center can seek expedited decisions on protection for 10 species per year. The other nine priority species for 2016 include the monarch butterfly, Northern Rockies fisher, alligator snapping turtle, wood turtle, Virgin River spinedace, foothill yellow-legged frog, Canoe Creek pigtoe, Barrens topminnow and beaverpond marstonia. Under the settlement 144 species have gained protection to date, and 36 species have been proposed for protection.



The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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