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2 Articles:

5-year review of spotted owl and marbled murrelet

Seeing forests and trees


April 21, 2003


Contact: Joan Jewett, 503-231-6121         

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is conducting a
5-year review of two threatened birds, the northern spotted owl and the
marbled murrelet.

The 5-year review, as required for all listed species under the Endangered
Species Act, will assess the best available information on how the birds
have fared since they were listed for protection in the early 1990s,
including analyses of population data and threats to the species. The
Service is soliciting information from all sources.  Comments must be
received by June 20, 2003.

"The purpose of the review is to ensure that the species have the
appropriate level of protection under the ESA," said Dave Wesley, Acting
Regional Director of the Service's Pacific Region. "Reviewing the latest
information will also lead to better management and improved conservation
of the species."

The review will consider information that has become available since the
original listing determination, such as: population and demographic trend
data; studies of dispersal and habitat use; genetics and species
competition investigations; surveys of habitat amount, quality, and
distribution; adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and management
and conservation planning information.  The review will assess whether new
information suggests that the species' populations are increasing,
declining or stable; whether existing threats are increasing, the same,
reduced or eliminated; if there are any new threats; and if any new
information or analysis calls into question any of the conclusions in the
original listing determination.

The Service will also review whether the Pacific Northwest population of
marbled murrelets qualifies for
listing under the agency's current policy on Distinct Population Segments.
The policy was adopted in 1996, after marbled murrelets in the Pacific
Northwest were listed as threatened. The ESA authorizes vertebrate animals
to be listed as either species, subspecies or Distinct Population Segments.
A Distinct Population Segment is a population that makes up a portion of a
species' or subspecies' population or range.
If the Service determines that a change in either species' classification
is warranted, the agency may separately propose to reclassify or delist the
species. If the agency does propose a change, it would go through a formal
rulemaking process, including public review and comment, as defined in
section 4(a) of the ESA. No change in classification would occur until the
completion of that process.

The northern spotted owl was listed in 1990 and the marbled murrelet was
listed in 1992. The Northwest Forest Plan, signed in 1994, is a
comprehensive strategy for managing 24.4 million acres of Forest Service
and Bureau of Land Management lands that maintains and restores old-growth
forests and recognizes their importance to the economy and jobs of the

Comprehensive research and monitoring programs for both of these species
have been carried out and are ongoing on both Federal and non-Federal
(state, private, tribal) lands. As a result, a large body of new
information has become available.  Although this information has been made
public throughout the past decade, and the Service has continued to use the
best available data in carrying out its ESA responsibilities, this
information has not been evaluated under the ESA's 5-year review process.

The Service has agreed to initiate the 5-year review of these two species
at this time in connection with the proposed settlement of two recent
lawsuits: Western Council of Industrial Workers, et al. Secretary of the
Interior (regarding the northern spotted owl), and American Forest Resource
Council et at v. Secretary of the Interior (regarding the marbled
murrelet).  The proposed settlement agreements are currently pending
consideration by the District Court in Oregon.

The Service is asking that anyone with new scientific or commercial
information concerning the status of the northern spotted owl and the
marbled murrelet submit it to: Field Office Supervisor, Attention: Owl and
Murrelet 5-year Review, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE. 98th
Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266. Information on the northern
spotted owl may be sent electronically to  owl_information@r1.fws.gov.
Information on marbled murrelets may be sent electronically to

Notice of this review was published in today's Federal Register.

See Questions and answers for more information.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to
state fish and wildlife agencies.

NOTE:  This news release and others can be viewed on either the Service's
Pacific Regional home page on the Internet at http://pacific.fws.gov or the
National home page at: http://www.fws.gov/r9extaff/renews.html


The Washington Times: Commentary

Seeing forests and trees

By Charli Coon

    In 1995, a late-winter storm laid waste to hundreds of thousands of trees in a 35,000-acre area of the Six Rivers National Forest in California. Trees lay strewn across the forest floor, creating conditions particularly ripe for the kind of uncontrollable, unnaturally hot fires that threaten communities and lives.
    Officials charged with managing the forests at Six Rivers knew what had to be done. The dead trees had to be removed and the forest floor cleared all before fire season began.
    But they needed permission from Washington, D.C., first, so they submitted various options to their superiors to accomplish this, as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires them to do. Then they waited while courts and others plowed through challenges to every part of their plans. By the time forest officials won approval for what was for them a no-brainer, they managed to clear just 1,600 acres before disaster struck.
    Before it was over, 125,000 acres had burned, and $70 million had been spent to contain the fires. On top of it all, the U.S. Forest Service had to go back to the drawing board and create still more plans for improving the forest because, of course, the fire had changed the land conditions.
    The intent of NEPA to ensure forests aren't ripped apart indiscriminately with no concern for environmental fallout is a good one. But in practice, its requirements have become tools used to prevent plans from being enacted until they're rendered moot by the onset of the fires or disease that managers sought to avoid. These shackles on sound forest management have allowed America's forests and rangelands to reach "a crisis of ecological health," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Last year alone, wildfires burned more than 7 million acres of public and private lands an area larger than Rhode Island and Maryland combined. These fires claimed the lives of 21 firefighters, destroyed thousands of structures and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The two-headed monster forest officials now confront forests with excessive "loads" of dead trees and other brush and forests deteriorating because of disease and insects now consumes 190 million acres of public land, an area twice the size of California.
    Communities such as Flagstaff, Ariz., and Klamath Falls, Ore., no longer can afford to have sound forest management plans stifled by extremists and their frivolous challenges until fire season arrives and it's too late to help. That's the focus of President Bush's proposed Healthy Forests Initiative, embodied in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 to be taken up this month in the House.
    The initiative would make it easier for forest managers to "thin" forests fell and remove diseased or dead trees to perform "prescribed burns," in which small, controllable fires are set to prevent unwieldy conflagrations, and to otherwise treat forests against insect and disease infestation.
    It would do so by streamlining the administrative appeals and court challenges to fire-prevention strategies on up to 20 million acres of forest near residential communities, municipal water supplies, areas with threatened or endangered species and areas where trees are infected with certain insects. Forest Service officials estimate they spend 40 percent of their time and $250 million per year assembling multiple plans for projects when they know what is needed, all to fulfill the requirements of NEPA.
    The bill would allow forest managers to develop one plan for public comment rather than allowing the public to weigh in on the universe of options available. And on those 20 million acres most in need of treatment, it would remove the option of doing nothing a popular one among the hard green left and one required by law now to be among the top options.
    It's time we recognize that times have changed with respect to our forests. Our burgeoning population means more of us live near forests and rangelands than ever before. Leaving the forests alone may sound like the best environmental practice, and it may have been 100 or more years ago when the occasional natural burn could correct overgrowth without threatening communities. Now, circumstances demand we control the elements, and thankfully, we have the technology and know-how to do so.
    But how we do so must be based on what's best for the forests and the people who live around them. And those who have devoted their lives to the study of these ecosystems can best make those decisions not extremists who insist that to touch a forest is to defile it.
    Charli Coon is an energy and environment analyst at the Heritage Foundation.






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