(Seattle, January 14, 2021)— In what amounts to a last-minute parting shot from the outgoing administration, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (FWS) has announced the exclusion of more than three million acres from lands designated as critical habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl, more than ten times the original amount the agency proposed in August of last year. The timber industry and a number of counties in Washington, Oregon and California had lobbied FWS for the exclusion of additional acres.
“The outgoing administration has made a massive roll back of protection for lands that are cherished by millions and that harbor species that live nowhere else,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, executive director of Audubon Washington. “The USFWS has betrayed its responsibility to protect the Nation’s fish and wildlife and the public lands upon which they depend, leaving vulnerable species hanging in the balance.”
The Northern Spotted Owl was first listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. The National Audubon Society was heavily involved in the development of the Northwest Forest Plan, working with federal, state, and local governments to secure lands crucial to the owl’s survival. By 2012, mostly federal land designated as critical habitat for the species had expanded to 9.6 million acres. This week’s revision slashes that by 3,472,064 acres, with FWS claiming that "The benefits of exclusion of particular areas of critical habitat outweigh the benefits of designation of particular areas of critical habitat based on economic, national security and other relevant impacts.” At the same time, the agency admitted that it conducted no new research into the economic effects of the critical habitat designation in excluding the acreage.
Jason Howe, firstname.lastname@example.org; 415-595-9245
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