Spotted Owl Remains Threatened

Remember the northern spotted owl? Caused a bit of a fuss about a decade ago? According to a comprehensive, federally funded review of the available science, the world’s most studied bird still faces dire threats. While the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan sharply curtailed logging in the old-growth forests that serve as the owl’s habitat, it still faces danger from the incursion of the competing barred owl, the possible spread of the West Nile virus, and the prospect of wildfires in overgrown Cascade forests. While logging is no longer the primary threat, protecting the forests is more important than ever, as “there is no hope for the spotted owl without habitat,” said researcher Jerry Franklin. Private Portland-based group Sustainable Ecosystems was contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review research on the bird; the agency is under court-ordered mandate to determine by November 15 whether to continue listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act.