Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Service Makes Information on Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Habitat Modeling Available for Public Review

Apr 21, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2011

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office 
2600 SE 98th Avenue, Suite 100
Portland, OR 97266
Phone: 503-231-6179; Fax:  503-231-6195
http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo                       
     
Contact:  Janet Lebson, 503-231-6179
Janet_lebson@fws.gov

Fish and Wildlife Service Makes Information on Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan
Habitat Modeling Available for Public Review

Updated habitat modeling information available for 30-day public comment period

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today it is opening a 30-day public comment period, beginning April 22, 2011, on updated information compiled in Appendix C of the draft revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl.

The 75-page Appendix C relates to a new computerized modeling tool developed for assessing spotted owl habitat quality and population dynamics, and predicting the effectiveness of different conservation measures.

“The habitat modeling tool has been one of the biggest topics of our ongoing dialogue with recovery partners, environmental groups, and the timber industry throughout the revision process for the spotted owl recovery plan,” said Paul Henson, State Supervisor of the Service’s Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. “We’ve heard concerns that the modeling tool was not completed at the time we made the draft plan available for the original 90-day review period. Because of the progress made in developing and testing the modeling tool, we now have a better opportunity to answer questions and resolve concerns.”

The Service has reviewed nearly 12,000 public comments on the draft plan and originally intended to release a final plan early in 2011. The agency is currently required by federal court order to complete the final revised recovery plan by June 1, 2011, in response to litigation.

The modeling process and Appendix C were developed by the Spotted Owl Modeling Team, a recovery team of experts established by the Service under the Endangered Species Act.

The modeling tool synthesizes information gathered from about 4,000 spotted owl sites with data from regional experts throughout the spotted owl’s range in Washington, Oregon, and California on where spotted owls nest and roost, including factors such as forest stand characteristics, slope locations, and elevation. It combines this information with more than 20 years’ worth of demographic data, such as survival and reproductive rates, from annual surveys. This is a first-ever consolidated application of decades of dedicated field monitoring and research by Federal, state, tribal, academic, and timber industry sources.

The modeling tool projects this synthesized information onto the landscape to give recovery partners the most accurate rangewide picture of where spotted owls nest and roost and where they are most likely to do so in the future. This information is captured in zonation maps showing different levels of habitat quality so that recovery partners can see what areas are most important to the spotted owl’s continued survival and recovery.

When the draft plan was released in September 2010, its Appendix C on habitat modeling included initial maps showing suitable spotted owl habitat at different levels of quality, based on the data synthesis. This is the underlying layer that allows for evaluation of different conservation measures. The updated Appendix C includes more information on how the modeling tool allows the Service to compare potential spotted owl population responses to different habitat management scenarios and conservation measures such as barred owl management.

Over the long term, the modeling tool can be used by land managers to evaluate specific recovery actions throughout the lifespan of the recovery plan. For example, the Service will be better able to prioritize areas where Safe Harbor agreements and Habitat Conservation Plans (voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners) would be beneficial. In addition, a number of different variables likely to affect spotted owl survival and reproduction rates—such as predicted climate change impacts—can be plugged into the model to evaluate how spotted owl populations could be affected. The modeling tool will be useful for government agencies and the public to evaluate potential future proposals, for example, to amend land use management plans and revise spotted owl critical habitat.

The Service made the draft revised recovery plan available for public review on September 8, 2010, and announced a 60-day comment period upon its publication in the Federal Register, (which occurred on September 15, 2010). On November 12, 2010, the agency announced an extension of the comment period until December 15, 2010.

A Notice of Availability will publish in the Federal Register on April 22, 2011, which will start a 30-day public comment period ending May 23, 2011. The appendix and other documents and information on spotted owl recovery are available at www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/.

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov


                                                                         --FWS--