Joan Jewett, (503) 231-6121
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Regional Director Ren Lohoefener announced a strategy today to develop a final recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl. In order to address the enormous volume of public comments and scientific peer reviews of its draft recovery plan in a timely manner, the Service will restructure its recovery planning process to include multiple workgroups and a private contractor.
The Service will engage an outside contractor to help address public and peer review comments on the draft recovery plan, released in April 2007. The Service will also rely on members of the Interagency Staff Team (IST) who helped develop the draft plan, and will convene several science workgroups to focus on the key areas of spotted owl recovery - including habitat management, competition from barred owls, and fire. The IST consists of scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
"The Service is committed to developing the best final recovery plan possible for the northern spotted owl, one that incorporates the latest science and most effective current management practices. This strategy offers us a way to move forward and take action to achieve recovery of the owl," said Lohoefener, who thanked the members of the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Team for their work in developing the draft recovery plan.
"In addition to carrying out the duties of their full-time jobs, the members of the team worked tirelessly for nearly a year, and accomplished a tremendous amount in a relatively short period of time," Lohoefener added. "They are to be commended for their contributions to northern spotted owl recovery."
To date, the Service has received more than 80,000 comments on the draft recovery plan. Given the significant workload that will result from addressing the large volume of comments received on this issue, Lohoefener determined the need to involve an outside contractor and multiple workgroups on this project. Some members of the original recovery team have new jobs or responsibilities and their agencies have asked that their representatives be relieved of their commitment to the recovery team. Members of the original team may, however, be consulted as the final plan is developed.
The Service intends to produce a final recovery plan by April 2008.
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 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.