Legendary for their beauty and flight skills, goshawks are dependent upon mature and old-growth forests throughout western and northeastern North America.  The Queen Charlotte subspecies has evolved to live within the lush coastal rainforests of Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and Vancouver Island.  It may also be the breeding subspecies in the coast ranges of Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

The Queen Charlotte goshawk is the rarest and most old-growth dependent of North American goshawks.  It has been virtually extirpated from the cutover coastal forests of Oregon and Washington and is rarely seen on extensively logged Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands.  Even on Alaska's Tongass National Forest where significant reserves of old growth still remain, it is quite rare.  In the southern, most heavily logged portion of the Tongass, goshawks have very large home ranges- they need them in order find enough old-growth to hunt in.  Not surprisingly, they also have high mortality rates as they have to travel large distances in search of food.  Goshawks in the less logged northern Tongass have smaller home ranges and lower mortality rates.

In 1994, the Center for Biological Diversity wrote a scientific status review of the biology, habitat needs, and conservation status of the Queen Charlotte goshawk.  We then formed a national coalition to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the goshawk on the endangered species list and designate large swaths of critical habitat to protect the ecosystem on which it depends.  The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, bowed to timber industry pressure and refused to protect the goshawk.  With the trees still falling and no alternative left, the Center took to the courts winning three lawsuits between 1997 and 2004 overturning the agency's refusal to protect the goshawk.  The latest victory was in May, 2004 when a federal judge ruled that the agency had illegally refused to consider the effect of logging throughout the species range.  A new decision on the goshawk's fate is expected in 2005.  To ensure that the decision is based on politics rather than science, the Center is updating its 1994 status review to include the latest biological information.

The ten-year battle to protect the Queen Charlotte goshawk has dramatically increased protection for old-growth forests in Alaska and British Columbia.  While barely considered in previous versions of the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan, the goshawk became one the centerpieces of the 1999 plan revision.  That plan, while still inadequate, protected millions of acres of forest in a network of old-growth reserves designed to protect the goshawk and other old-growth dependent species.  British Columbia has also reined in logging near goshawk territories and in 2000 classified it as "threatened" under its Species At Risk Act.

The Center will continue to push to have the goshawk protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, to have a cross-border recovery plan developed, and to have its critical habitat areas protected.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
June 24, 2004
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