Oroville Mercury-Register

Federal wildlife officials propose California spotted owl protection

- By Olga R. Rodriguez

SAN FRANCISCO >> Federal wildlife officials on Wednesday announced a proposal to classify one of two dwindling California spotted owl population­s as endangered after a lawsuit by conservati­on groups required the government to reassess a Trump administra­tion decision not to protect the brown and white birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that California spotted owls that have their habitats in coastal and Southern California be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

That population “does not have a strong ability to withstand normal variations in environmen­tal conditions, persist through catastroph­ic events, or adapt to new environmen­tal conditions throughout its range,” which led the agency to propose listing it as endangered, wildlife officials said.

The other California spotted owl population, which lives in Sierra Nevada forests in California and western Nevada, would be classified as threatened, the agency said.

The habitat of the medium-sized brown owl with white spots on its head and chest and a barred tail is under serious threat from current logging practices and climate change, including increased drought, disease and more extreme wildfires.

Most California spotted owls live on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

How much the population has declined since conservati­on groups started their effort to protect it more than 20 years ago is unclear.

The only available demographi­c data on spotted owls living in coastal and Southern California was collected in San Bernardino National Forest and shows a decline of 9%, the federal wildlife service said.

The Sierra Nevada population shows declines ranging from 50% to 31% percent in some areas, the agency said.

The federal agency’s decision follows an agreement reached in November between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several conservati­on groups that sued the federal agency in 2020 over its decision not to protect the California spotted owl population.

The northern spotted owl habitat is in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California.

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