The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is reducing critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl by over 3 million acres—far more than was previously proposed. In an utterly deceptive and dishonest press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service led not with the reduction in critical habitat but rather focused on the lands that will retain the designation. In fact, the new rule announced today is a massive and unprecedented rollback of habitat protection for a species which just last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized was warranted but precluded (due to a backlog of species needing Endangered Species Act protections) for uplisting from threatened to endangered because it is now on the precipice of extinction.
This decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decline uplisting a species that it recognizes warrants uplisting last month followed by a decision to rollback protection for its critical habitat by 3 million acres today represents a stunning and disgraceful abdication by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its core mission to protect the nation’s wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of the Interior are now acting purely on behalf of industrial timber interests and abandoning any pretense of trying to protect and recover the Northern Spotted Owl.
We look to the Biden Administration to immediately do everything necessary to reverse this disgraceful decision and put in place the protections necessary to protect the Northern Spotted Owl and the forests on which they depend.