2007 Annual Report

21st Century Vision for Sustainable Forestry

New Challenges to Northern Spotted Owl Recovery

Private landowner's best efforts at habitat protection challenged by Barred Owls and wildfire

While private forest landowners protect Northern Spotted Owls on their lands, and conduct research to better understand the relationship between the owls and their habitat, new challenges have arisen which threaten the species. The aggressive Barred Owl, a competitor species, has invaded Spotted Owl habitat. In addition, unusually hot wildfires that have occurred in forests with poor health have burned owl habitat.

Earlier this year environmental groups made a legal challenge to the state forest practices rules governing spotted owl habitat in federal court, the judge refused to enjoin harvest permitted through the state forest practices system.

Judge refuses to enjoin harvest permitted through the state forest practice system in response to environmental group challenge.

Photo of a Northern Spotted Owl

The Northern Spotted Owl has long been a symbol in Pacific Northwest forests of the need to protect our state’s old growth ecosystems. Listed as “threatened” in 1990 under the Endangered Species Act, forest policy and practices dramatically changed across the three state range of the owl in California, Oregon and Washington. Timber harvesting was reduced more than 80% across 24 million acres of federal forest to provide a connected system of habitat supporting late successional old growth species.

Forest policy changes led to a reduction in timber harvesting due to implementation of the federal Northwest Forest Plan, private and state Habitat Conservation Plans and in Washington, forest practices regulations were changed to complement the federal conservation strategy, which adds up to nearly 14 million acres of land in Washington alone.

Washington’s regulatory system is designed to complement federal recovery goals.

See our Northern Spotted Owl Special Feature outlining our state's current regulatory system.

WFPA Northern Spotted Owl Conservation Website