Forest Service rushes to come up with spotted owl plan

Forest Service rushes to come up with spotted owl plan

January 3, 2020
White Mountain Independent

The Forest Service last week rushed to comply with a federal court order in the long-running drama centered on the survival of the old-growth loving Mexican spotted owl. The Forest Service hopes the court will lift its ban on timber harvesting in five national forests quickly.

A US District Court judge had barred further timber harvesting on the Tonto National Forest as well as four national forests in New Mexico, including the Gila National Forest. The judge ruled the Forest Service had never undertaken a real population survey and so had no way to tell whether the threatened tiny owl was still dwindling or actually recovering.

Senior United States District Judge Raner Collins ordered the Forest Service to reopen its consultations with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and reconsider its previously issued biological opinions.

Last week, the Forest Service did just that before asking the court to lift its temporary injunction on timber harvesting in the Tonto, Gila, Lincoln and Santa Fe National Forests. The injunction didn’t cover other Arizona forests that had already updated forest plans to incorporate changes ordered in previous court decisions – including the Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Kaibab, all of which have populations of Mexican spotted owls.

“As promised, we have focused on meeting our consultation responsibilities under the Court’s Order as quickly as possible, as we are fully committed to continuing efforts for the recovery of the Mexican spotted owl,” stated Regional Forester Cal Joyner. “We’re encouraged and grateful for the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and for the sustained support of our partners and communities across the region and we are hopeful that these filings will lead to quick relief to the communities affected by the court-ordered injunction.”

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