Ten environmental groups in the Northwest filed suit this month against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming that the agency has not done its duty to protect the northern spotted owl, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit contends that the USFWS has allowed logging in critical owl habitat and has permitted the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to “take,” or kill, some owls without keeping track of the effects on the overall owl population. “The U.S. Forest Service has a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy with regard to owl take,” said Mitch Friedman, head of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. In April 1999, a five-year report found that the region’s owl population has been declining at a rate of about 5 percent per year.