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Originally published April 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 27, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Spotted owl became symbol in 1990s controversy

The northern spotted owl, a modest-sized raptor with chocolate- or chestnut-brown coloring, has stood as a symbol of sweeping changes in...

Read the plan online


To read the draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl, go to: www.fws.gov/pacific. Comments on the draft plan will be accepted until June 25 and can be sent electronically to NSOplan@fws.gov.

The northern spotted owl, a modest-sized raptor with chocolate- or chestnut-brown coloring, has stood as a symbol of sweeping changes in federal land management. As the bird's population declined amid widespread clear-cut logging, environmentalists gained court victories to protect the bird by preserving the region's remaining old-growth forests.

A look back:

1973: The Endangered Species Act passes Congress, and the U.S. Department of the Interior lists the northern spotted owl as a potentially endangered species.

June 22, 1990: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares the owl threatened.

1991: In Seattle, U.S. District Judge William Dwyer rules the federal government had not done enough to protect the owl, and temporarily shuts down most timber sales in old-growth habitat.

1993: Federal scientists say spotted-owl populations appear to be declining. President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore host a forest conference in Portland, which later gives rise to the Northwest Forest Plan.

1994: Dwyer upholds the forest plan, which dramatically reduced logging and protected two-thirds of remaining older forests. Federal agencies are required to survey for more than 100 rare species before proposing a timber sale, all but assuring that loggers would never get to cut the 1 billion board feet of timber they say they were promised.

Read the plan online

To read the draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl, go to: www.fws.gov/pacific. Comments on the draft plan will be accepted until June 25 and can be sent electronically to NSOplan@fws.gov.

2000: Federal agencies offer a yearly total of less than 200 million board feet of timber for sale.

2002: Timber-industry groups sue the Bush administration for failing to review the status of the spotted owl.

Thursday: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases a draft recovery plan for the spotted owl that envisions recovery in 30 years at a cost of about $198 million.

The plan identifies invasive barred owls as the primary threat to spotted-owl survival and offers two options for public consideration. One option would largely keep the set-asides in the Northwest Forest Plan. A second would offer land managers much more flexibility to draw up boundaries.

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