Crying Foul Over Protecting Owl

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

SEATTLE -- Even though the northern spotted owl was listed as an endangered species in 1990 because of logging in the Northwest, federal officials have yet to devise a plan to protect it. Now the Audubon Society has decided to force the issue by filing a federal lawsuit.

"They've been telling us for years they were going to do it," said Alex Morgan, conservation director at the Seattle Audubon Society, which joined the Kittitas Audubon Society in filing the suit on Monday. "This is 15 years late."

Joan Jewett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, acknowledged that federal officials never completed a final recovery plan for the northern spotted owl. She said the agency recently agreed to complete such a plan -- probably within 18 months.

Morgan said the Audubon Society would be satisfied if it was in writing. The chapters are asking that the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service be ordered to commit within six months to a timeline for completing a recovery plan.

The endangered species designation led to an 80 percent cutback in logging in national forests and restrictions on private timberlands. But the number of spotted owls -- estimated at 2,400 pairs in the Northwest -- continues to drop. Logging, wildfires and the barred owl, a natural enemy that moved from the Midwest, are to blame, environmentalists say.

-- Associated Press

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