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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Spotted Owl Hearing 2006

Federal agencies developing recovery plan for spotted owls, science shows loss of habitat a key factor in their decline

Today the public was invited to an open house to learn about efforts to recover the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently convened a team of government and non-government scientific and technical experts to develop a recovery plan for the owl.

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Portland, OR Aug 09, 2006

Today the public was invited to an open house to learn about efforts to recover the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently convened a team of government and non-government scientific and technical experts to develop a recovery plan for the owl.

But the team is faced with a complex situation, with little time to act. Despite federal and state plans over the last decade to slow the decline, the owl’s populations have continued to drop precipitously over this period – by as much as 40 to 60%.

Scientists have identified potential new factors in spotted owl decline, such as invasion from its eastern cousin, the barred owl and diseases such as the West Nile Virus.  But the role of these threats in owl's decline remains unclear.  Loss of the owl's old forest habitat is still probably the most central factor in its continued decline.

"There’s no way around it, spotted owls need old forest habitat to recover," said Dave Werntz, science director, for Conservation Northwest. "They need it in large blocks, throughout the region."

Recent scientific analyses have concluded that the existing network of old forest reserves on federal land is still the best strategy for conserving the spotted owl. Conservationists point out that, despite this science, the Bush administration is abandoning its commitment to this strategy by increasingly allowing harmful logging in old-growth reserves and in some cases trying to eliminate them altogether.

The Bureau of Land Management, for example, is considering eliminating old-growth reserves in western Oregon – an integral part of the larger Northwest Forest Plan, adopted in 1994 to protect owls and other old-growth associated wildlife and plants.

"The BLM has tried many times to escape its responsibility to conserve spotted owls," said Doug Heiken with the Oregon Natural Resources Council, “but each time the BLM has been told by scientists and the courts that BLM lands are essential to the conservation of the owl and must follow the law and conserve owl habitat."

Conservationists also point out that a solid recovery plan that protects owl habitat will not harm, and could even help the economy. "If the recovery plan protects all remaining suitable habitat and leads to investments in forest and watershed restoration," added Heiken, "our region will get far more long-term economic benefits than if the recovery plan liquidated old-growth and delays or prevents recovery of the owl."

Citizens traveling from as far as Bellingham, Washington and northern California will be attending the open house. "For me, this is about more than just owls," said Amber Knox, a Conservation Northwest volunteer from Seattle. "This is about the future of our old-growth forests.  I want my kids and grandkids to enjoy the same Pacific Northwest I did."

Details about the open house

The open house sessions are not formal public hearings but are designed as listening opportunities for the recovery team to hear from stakeholders and interested parties. A draft recovery plan is expected to be released to the public in mid-November 2006, followed by a 60-day public comment period. Formal public hearings will be a part of this process. A final plan is expected by November 2007.

What:
Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Open House hosted by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

When:
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
1:00-5:00 PM and 7:00-10:00 PM

Where:
Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., Portland
Meeting Room F150-151

Afternoon Meeting (1:00-5:00 PM) Format:

--The recovery team will give an introductory presentation on the recovery planning process (approx. 30 minutes).

--USFWS has invited specific stakeholders (tribes, timber industry, conservationists, and others) to give brief (approx. 10 minutes) presentations on their issues of concern relating to the recovery of the northern spotted owl.

--If there is time remaining after all invited stakeholders have made their presentations, individuals from the public will be invited to speak (approx. 3 minutes, but if ample time remains, longer presentations will be allowed).

--Written comments may be submitted.

 

Evening Meeting (7:00-10:00 PM) Format:

--The recovery team will give an introductory presentation on the recovery planning process (approx. 30 minutes).

--Individuals from the public are invited to speak (approx. 3 minutes, but if ample time remains, longer presentations will be allowed).

--Written comments may be submitted.

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