The future of the infamous northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest may be in further jeopardy if some U.S. federal agencies carry out their plans to restructure its recovery. Perhaps most potentially destructive is the Bureau of Land Management’s recently announced plan to essentially opt out of the Northwest Forest Plan — a truce of sorts between loggers and environmentalists that has managed the actions of a number of federal agencies as they pertain to the owls and their habitat. Part of the BLM’s plan includes tripling logging on 2.2 million acres of forest it manages in western Oregon, with an even greater increase in logging in old-growth areas crucial for the northern spotted owl’s recovery. The plan also wouldn’t set aside any territory for the owl on the BLM land, putting the overall Northwest Forest Plan in question. The BLM’s scheme has been aided by a much-criticized draft plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — the agency that oversees Endangered Species Act protections — that emphasizes threats to the spotted owl from the barred owl and plays down the importance of old-growth forest habitat. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA, in letters to the FWS this summer, questioned the wisdom of the revised owl-recovery plan and the BLM’s increased logging plan, saying they could harm water quality and fish.

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