[Federal Register: February 3, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 23)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 5298-5300]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding for 
a Petition To Delist the Northern Spotted Owl From the List of 
Threatened and Endangered Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding for a petition to delist the northern spotted owl (Strix 
occidentalis caurina) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). We find that the petitioner did not present substantial 
scientific or commercial information indicating that the delisting of 
the northern spotted owl may be warranted.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on January 18, 

ADDRESSES: Data, information, comments or questions concerning this 
petition should be sent to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Western Washington Office, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 102, 
Lacey, Washington 98503. The petition finding, and comments and 
material received, will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. L. Karolee Owens at the above 
address (telephone 360/753-4369; facsimile 360/753-4369).



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act, requires that we make a finding on 
whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information to demonstrate that 
the petitioned action may be warranted. This finding is based upon all 
information submitted with and referenced in the petition and all other 
information available to us at the time the finding is made. To the 
maximum extent practicable, this finding is to be made within 90 days 
following receipt of the petition, and promptly published in the 
Federal Register. If the finding is positive, section 4(b)(3)(B) of the 
Act requires us to promptly commence a review of the status of the 
species and to disclose our findings within 12 months.
    The processing of this petition finding conforms with our Listing 
Priority Guidance published in the Federal Register on October 22, 1999 
(64 FR 57114). The guidance clarifies the order in which we will 
process rulemakings. Highest priority is processing emergency listing 
rules for any species determined to face a significant and imminent 
risk to its well-being (Priority 1). Second priority (Priority 2) is 
processing final determinations on proposed additions to the lists of 
endangered and threatened wildlife and

[[Page 5299]]

plants. Third priority is processing new proposals to add species to 
the lists. The processing of administrative petition findings 
(petitions filed under section 4 of the Act) is the fourth priority. 
The processing of critical habitat determinations (prudency and 
determinability decisions) and proposed or final designations of 
critical habitat will no longer be subject to prioritization under the 
Listing Priority Guidance. The processing of this petition finding is a 
Priority 4 action and is being completed in accordance with the current 
Listing Priority Guidance.
    We have made a 90-day finding on a petition to delist the northern 
spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). The petition, dated January 
18, 1999, was submitted by Dr. Richard A. Gierak of Yreka, California, 
and we received it on February 2, 1999.
    The petition identified three subspecies of spotted owl, including 
the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), the California 
spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis), and the Mexican spotted 
owl (Strix occidentalis lucida). The petitioner asked that the 
``spotted owl'' be removed from the ``endangered list.'' The California 
spotted owl, however, is not a listed subspecies. The Mexican and 
northern spotted owls, subjects of separate listing actions, are both 
listed as threatened. The Mexican spotted owl was listed on March 16, 
1993 (58 FR 14271), and critical habitat was designated for this 
subspecies on June 6, 1995 (60 FR 29914). The northern spotted owl was 
listed as threatened on June 26, 1990 (55 FR 26194), and critical 
habitat for the subspecies was designated on January 15, 1992 (57 FR 
1796). Since the information presented in the petition refers only to 
northern spotted owls, this 90-day petition finding addresses only this 
subspecies. The petition is based on statements referring to the status 
and listing of the northern spotted owl from the National Center for 
Policy Analysis web site. There is no documentation of the source(s) of 
the information on the web site, and no scientific supporting 
documentation was included with the petition.
    The petitioner asserts that the northern spotted owl should be 
delisted because the original data were in error. This assertion is 
based on an increased number of known northern spotted owl pairs, their 
use of forest areas that have been harvested and regrown, and the 
economic effects of the listing.
    Documentation of greater numbers of northern spotted owls since the 
first population estimates results from expanded knowledge and 
increased survey efforts, and not from an increasing northern spotted 
owl population. Additionally, listing and any consideration of 
delisting of the northern spotted owl must be based on its status as 
reflected by the required analysis of the five factors specified under 
section 4 of the Act, and not solely on the basis of the number of 
pairs. To delist a species, the analysis must indicate that none of 
these five factors are affecting the species such that it is in danger 
of extinction, or likely to become endangered, within the foreseeable 
future. For the northern spotted owl, this will require stable or 
increasing and self-sustaining populations and conservation of adequate 
suitable habitat to allow the species to survive without protection of 
the Act.
    Current data do not suggest that the decision to list the northern 
spotted owl was based on erroneous data, or that the species has 
recovered. Observations of banded northern spotted owls in 15 study 
areas in Washington, Oregon, and California were used for the recently 
released 1998 demographic analysis of northern spotted owls (Franklin 
et al. 1999). In this analysis, these observations were used to 
estimate survival and reproductive rates, and to determine if the 
population is increasing, decreasing, or stable. The results indicate 
there has been a range-wide northern spotted owl population decline of 
about 3.9 percent per year during the years 1985 to 1998. The analysis 
does not indicate, however, a range-wide decline in reproductive rates 
and female survival rates, which varied among years and among study 
areas. Reproductive rates and female survival rates can be relatively 
stable, but still be lower than necessary to support a stable 
population. The result is a declining population. Although these 
results indicate that the rate of the northern spotted owl population 
decline is slower than was evident in the 1993 analysis for the 
development of the Northwest Forest Plan (U.S. Department of 
Agriculture and U.S. Department of Interior 1994), uncertainty still 
exists regarding the range-wide health of the northern spotted owl 
    Northern spotted owls are known to use a wide variety of habitat 
types and forest stand conditions throughout their distribution (57 FR 
1796). Northern spotted owls use a wide array of forest types for 
foraging, including open and fragmented habitat. Habitat that meets the 
species' needs for nesting and roosting also provides foraging habitat. 
Some habitat that supports foraging, however, may be inadequate for 
nesting and roosting. The presence of northern spotted owls, or even 
breeding pairs, in forest stands that have been harvested and regrown 
do not present sufficient evidence that these habitats are occupied by 
self-sustaining populations.
    Economic analysis is not a factor in listing a species, but is used 
to evaluate the economic consequences of designating critical habitat 
in selected areas. We considered the economic and other relevant 
impacts prior to making a final decision on the size and scope of 
critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. Some areas were excluded 
due to economic and other relevant information, including information 
and comments received during the public comment period and public 
hearings following the publication of the proposed rule to designate 
critical habitat (56 FR 40001). Final critical habitat units for the 
northern spotted owl were designated only on Federal lands (57 FR 
    When evaluating petitions for delisting of species under the Act, 
our guidelines state that a ``not-substantial information'' finding be 
made when a petition to delist a species presents no new information 
indicating the original data for listing the species may be in error 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996). We have reviewed the petition 
and other available literature and information. This review of 
additional information includes the recently released 1998 demographic 
analysis, which indicates a continued range-wide decline of the 
northern spotted owl population. We find the petition does not present 
substantial information to indicate delisting the northern spotted owl 
may be warranted.

References Cited

    Franklin, A.B., K.P. Burnham, G.C. White, R.J. Anthony, E.D. 
Forsman, C. Schwarz, J.D. Nichols, and J. Hines. 1999. Range-wide 
status and trends in northern spotted owl populations. Unpublished 
report. 71 pp.
    U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior. 
1994. Final supplemental environmental impact statement on management 
of habitat for late-successional and old-growth forest related species 
within the range of the northern spotted owl. Portland, Oregon.
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries 
Service. 1996. Endangered species petition management guidance. 20 pp. 
and appendices.
    Author: The primary author of this finding is Dr. L. Karolee Owens, 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Washington Office (see ADDRESSES 

[[Page 5300]]


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: January 18, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-2311 Filed 2-2-00; 8:45 am]