Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Obama administration increases 'critical habitat' for nothern spotted owl

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will designate 9.6 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, nearly double the last designation in 2008. The acreage in Oregon, Washington and California won't be off limits to logging. But the ruling requires more federal review of logging projects on lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the bulk of the designated land. The service's initial proposal in February contained 13.9 million acres of habitat, including 1.3 million acres of private land. The final designation includes no private land, after timber groups raised objections. The spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. The listing protected old-growth stands -- the owl's favored habitat -- but drove down logging on federal lands. In 2011, Oregon loggers harvested about a half-billion board feet of timber from federal lands. In the 1980s, prior to the listing, the annual harvest ranged from 2.5 billion board feet to nearly 5 billion. The new designation comes after a lawsuit and a finding from the Department of the Interior's inspector general in 2008 that Bush administration appointees tinkered with the science last time around...more

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