- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The California spotted owl does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday after completing a yearlong study.
The service found that "the overall magnitude of current threats to the California spotted owl does not rise to a level requiring federal protection."
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Nevada Protection Campaign filed a petition in April 2000 asking the government to list the owl as endangered, and a subsequent federal court ruling ordered the agency to make a decision by yesterday.
"We have based our decision in part because we believe current land management direction on federal lands and long-range timber-harvest strategies on commercial timberlands have projected increases in habitats important to spotted owl nesting, roosting and foraging," said Steve Thompson, manager of the service's California-Nevada Operations Office.
"Endangered" status denotes imminent extinction without protective intervention, and "threatened" applies if a population faces serious stresses that could become an extinction threat "like triage in an emergency room," said Patricia Foulk, Fish and Wildlife spokesman.
The decision brought immediate praise from a top Western lawmaker who said it was good news for all involved, "especially the California spotted owl."
"Basing the decision on the best scientific information available, Fish and Wildlife determined that the California spotted owl was neither endangered, nor threatened," said Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee.
Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican, praised the decision, criticizing the cumbersome process of the Endangered Species Act and calling for congressional reforms.
"I'm convinced that Fish and Wildlife could have strangled every spotted owl alive with the amount of bureaucratic red tape involved in this lengthy process," Mr. Radanovich said.
Environmentalists plan to continue fighting for the listing and will sue the government to overturn the decision.
"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity.
"This is part of a larger effort on the part of the Bush administration to subvert the Endangered Species Act," Mr. Greenwald said.
In the first two years of the Clinton administration, nearly 200 animals were given special protections under the act, compared with 22 in the Bush administration, he said.
"We see a clear pattern of them listing very few species," Mr. Greenwald said.
The owl population has been studied for more than a decade with mixed findings some studies showed recent declines, but the service reports it found "no clear statistical evidence to show that the California spotted owl is declining throughout its range."
The government survey found more than 2,000 sites in Southern California where spotted owls have been recently observed.
The California spotted owl is found in the Sierra Nevada forests and is one of three subspecies of spotted owls. It is recognized as a "sensitive species" by the U.S. Forest Service.
The other subspecies the northern spotted owl in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, and the Mexican spotted owl in Arizona and New Mexico already have been listed by Fish and Wildlife as "threatened."

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