PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Trump administration said Wednesday that it would slash millions of acres of protected habitat designated for the imperiled northern spotted owl in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California, much of it in prime timber locations in Oregon’s coastal ranges.
Environmentalists immediately decried the move and accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Donald Trump of taking a parting shot at protections designed to help restore the species in favor of the timber industry.
The tiny owl is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and was rejected for an upgrade to endangered status last year by the federal agency despite losing nearly 4% of its population annually.
“This revision guts protected habitat for the northern spotted owl by more than a third. It’s Trump’s latest parting gift to the timber industry and another blow to a species that needs all the protections it can get to fully recover,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Timber groups applauded the decision, which won’t take effect for 60 days. More thinning and management of protected forests is necessary to prevent wildfires, which devastated 560 square miles of spotted owl habitat last fall, said Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resources Council.
Of that, about 300 square miles is no longer considered viable for the birds.