Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: September 1, 2004

Contacts: Noah Greenwald, Ctr. for Biological diversity, 503-484-7495
Craig Thomas, Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign 530-622-8718
More Information: CA Spotted Owl Web, Petition



Sacramento, CA. The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and five other conservation groups filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting protection for the California spotted owl as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The petition is part of a protracted battle to protect the owl and its old-growth habitats in the Sierra Nevada and southern California ranges.

The groups first petitioned protection for the owl April 3, 2000. That petition was rejected by the Fish and Wildlife Service based on protections provided by the Sierra Nevada Framework, a plan created by President Clinton to protect old-growth forests and old-growth dependent wildlife. Shortly after the agency decided to deny protection for the owl, the Bush Administration substantially weakened the Sierra Nevada Framework, allowing triple the logging and removing most protections for the owl and old-growth forests.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relied on the Sierra Nevada Framework to deny protection for the owl, even though they knew protections provided by the plan were on the Bush Administration’s chopping block,” states Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition. “In the absence of protection for old-growth forests, the California spotted owl needs the safety net provided by the Endangered Species Act.”

The Clinton-era Sierra Nevada Framework provided protection for the owl, while at the same time allowing for substantial progress towards reducing risk of destructive forest fires, by protecting fire resistant medium and large trees across the landscape, and focusing fuel treatments around communities where they are needed most.

“The Bush Administration scrapped a balanced plan with broad support from environmentalists, the state of California, the public, and scientific community to reward his campaign contributors in the timber industry,” states Craig Thomas, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. “ The Framework Plan focused on protecting and restoring old forest, which is key habitat for the owl, fisher and a host of other species, while the Bush plan aims to cut them down.”

Unlike the northern and Mexican subspecies, the California spotted owl has never been protected under the Endangered Species Act. Like its cousins, however, the California spotted owl is closely associated with old-growth forests. According to studies, old-growth forests in the Sierra Nevada have declined by as much as 90%. Such habitat loss is believed to be a factor in poor survival of adult California spotted owls, which were found by a Forest Service study to be dying at a faster rate than the listed northern spotted owl.

“The California spotted owl is in trouble,” states owl scientist Monica Bond. “The best way to ensure the survival of the California spotted owl is to protect the old forests where it lives.”


The California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) is a medium-sized owl that inhabits mature and old growth forests in California’s Sierra Nevada and southern coastal mountains. There are three recognized subspecies of the spotted owl; the other two subspecies, the northern spotted owl (which inhabits forests in the Pacific Northwest and northern California) and the Mexican spotted owl (which inhabits forests in the Southwest) have already been designated as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act because of widespread logging of their old-growth habitats. The California spotted owl is similarly threatened by habitat loss and other factors.


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