Federal protections for the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet have been blamed by many in the anti-enviro camp for the collapse of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest during the 1990s. Now, the Bush administration has announced that it will review those protections, as well as the designation of “critical habitat” thought necessary to ensure the survival of the species. The agreement to review the protections settles a lawsuit brought by the timber industry against federal biologists for allegedly dragging their feet on reviewing the health of the two birds. Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must review the status of both species by the end of this year, and review the designation of critical habitat for the owl and murrelet by December 2005 and August 2006, respectively. Both species are currently listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, but a strong bill of health could alter their classifications and change the level of protection they receive.

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