[Federal Register: September 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 178)]
[Page 56131-56133]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2010-N184; 10120-1113-0000-C2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Revised 
Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability for review and comment.


[[Page 56132]]

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of the Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern 
Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), a northwestern U.S. species 
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Act 
requires the development of recovery plans for listed species, unless 
such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular species. 
Recovery plans help guide conservation efforts by describing actions 
considered necessary for the recovery of the species, establishing 
criteria for downlisting or delisting listed species, and estimating 
time and cost for implementing the measures needed for recovery. We 
invite public review and comment on the Draft Revised Recovery Plan.

DATES: We must receive comments on the draft revised recovery plan on 
or before November 15, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the draft revised recovery plan are 
available online at: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/recovery-
plans.html and http://www.fws.gov/species/nso. Printed copies of the 
draft revised recovery plan are available by request from the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2600 SE. 98th Avenue, Ste. 100, Portland, OR 97266 (phone: 503/
231-6179). Written comments and materials regarding this recovery plan 
should be addressed to the above Portland address or sent by e-mail to: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brendan White, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address and phone number.



    Recovery of endangered or threatened animals and plants is a 
primary goal of our endangered species program and the Endangered 
Species Act (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Recovery means improvement 
of the status of listed species to the point at which listing is no 
longer necessary under the criteria set out in section 4(a)(1) of the 
    The Act requires the development of recovery plans for listed 
species unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a 
particular species. Recovery plans help guide conservation efforts by 
describing such site-specific management actions as may be necessary to 
achieve the plan's goal for the conservation and survival of the 
species, establishing criteria for delisting in accordance with the 
provisions of ESA Section 4, and estimating the time and cost for 
implementing those measures needed to achieve the plan's goal and to 
achieve intermediate steps toward that goal.
    Section 4(f) of the Act requires that public notice and an 
opportunity for public review and comment be provided during recovery 
plan development. We will consider all comments we receive during the 
public comment period on the substance of the recovery plan. Comments 
regarding recovery plan implementation will be forwarded to appropriate 
Federal or other entities so that they can take them into account 
during the course of implementing recovery actions. Responses to 
individual commenters will not be provided, but we will provide a 
summary of how we addressed substantive comments in an appendix to the 
final recovery plan.
    The northern spotted owl (hereafter, spotted owl) was Federally 
listed as a threatened species on June 26, 1990 (55 FR 26114). The 
current range of the spotted owl extends from southwest British 
Columbia through the Cascade Mountains, coastal ranges, and intervening 
forested lands in Washington, Oregon, and California, as far south as 
Marin County. Spotted owls generally rely on older forested habitats 
because such forests contain the structures and characteristics 
required for nesting, roosting, and foraging. Features that support 
nesting and roosting typically include a moderate-to-high forest canopy 
closure (60 to 90 percent); a multi-layered, multi-species forest 
canopy with large overstory trees; a high incidence of large trees with 
various deformities (large cavities, broken tops, mistletoe infections, 
and other evidence of decadence); large snags; large accumulations of 
fallen trees and other woody debris on the ground; and sufficient open 
space below the forest canopy for spotted owls to fly. Foraging habitat 
generally has attributes similar to nesting and roosting habitat, but 
may also include areas with less structural diversity and lower canopy 
    The spotted owl was listed as threatened throughout its range due 
to the loss of suitable habitat to timber harvesting, exacerbated by 
catastrophic events such as fire and wind storms. Today we recognize 
past habitat loss, current habitat loss, and competition from barred 
owls (Strix varia) as the most pressing threats to spotted owl 
persistence. The recovery actions in this draft revised recovery plan 
are designed to address these and other threats within the range of the 
spotted owl.
    The draft revised plan prioritizes recovery tasks aimed at: (1) 
Maintaining and managing for an adequate amount of spotted owl habitat 
across the species' range through active forest restoration and 
management, where appropriate; (2) restoring natural processes in the 
dry-forest landscapes such that the impacts of habitat loss through 
fire are minimized; and (3) conducting large-scale experiments on the 
effects of barred owl removal in areas where the two species co-occur. 
The goal of this recovery plan is to improve the status of the spotted 
owl so it no longer requires the protections of the Endangered Species 
    In May of 2008 we published the Recovery Plan for the Northern 
Spotted Owl and announced its availability in the Federal Register (May 
21, 2008; 73 FR 29471). The 2008 Recovery Plan formed the basis for our 
revised designation of spotted owl critical habitat, which we published 
in the Federal Register on August 13, 2008 (73 FR 47325). Both the 2008 
critical habitat designation and the 2008 recovery plan were challenged 
in court. Carpenters' Industrial Council v. Salazar, Case No. 1:08-cv-
01409-EGS (D.DC). In addition, on December 15, 2008, the Inspector 
General of the Department of the Interior issued a report entitled 
``Investigative Report of The Endangered Species Act and the Conflict 
between Science and Policy'' which concluded that the integrity of the 
agency decision-making process for the spotted owl recovery plan was 
potentially jeopardized by improper political influence. As a result, 
the Federal government filed a motion in the lawsuit for remand of the 
2008 recovery plan and critical habitat designation. On September 1, 
2010, the Court issued an opinion remanding the 2008 recovery plan to 
us for issuance of a revised plan within nine months. The Court also 
indicated that it will remand the 2008 critical habitat designation 
pending resolution of a schedule for a new rulemaking. This notice is 
part of the process to consider revisions to the 2008 recovery plan.
    The draft revised recovery plan is based on a review of all 
relevant biology, including new scientific information that has become 
available and critical peer-review comments we received on the 2008 
Recovery Plan from three professional scientific associations: The 
Wildlife Society, the American Ornithologists' Union, and The Society 
for Conservation Biology. Like several previous plans for conserving 
and recovering the spotted owl, the 2008 Recovery Plan recommended a 
network of large habitat blocks, or Managed Owl Conservation Areas 
(MOCAs), intended to support

[[Page 56133]]

long-term recovery of the species. The peer-review comments, however, 
were critical of this network for several reasons, including that we 
did not use updated modeling techniques to design the network and 
assess its efficacy.
    The draft revised recovery plan focuses on six main topics: (1) 
Adequacy of spotted owl habitat reserves on the west side of the 
Cascade Mountains, (2) lack of habitat reserves on the east side of the 
Cascade Mountains, (3) the role of non-Federal lands in spotted owl 
recovery, (4) adequacy of the existing strategy for conservation of 
dispersal habitat, (5) protection of high-quality habitat, and (6) 
protection of occupied spotted owl sites.
    The draft revised recovery plan is different from the 2008 Recovery 
Plan in several respects. We are conducting a scientifically rigorous, 
multi-step, range-wide modeling effort to design a habitat conservation 
network and assess its ability to provide for long-term recovery of the 
spotted owl. Consequently, we are not proposing to rely on the MOCA 
network recommended in the 2008 Recovery Plan and will instead use the 
model results to help evaluate several habitat conservation network 
scenarios. Until the barred owl threat is reduced, the draft revised 
plan recommends maintaining all occupied sites and unoccupied high-
quality spotted owl habitat on all lands within the range of the 
spotted owl. The draft revised plan also recognizes the possibility of 
needing additional conservation contributions from non-Federal lands. 
Finally, the draft revised plan affirms our support for forest 
restoration management actions that are neutral or beneficial to 
spotted owl recovery.

Request for Public Comments

    We invite written comments on the draft revised recovery plan. 
While all comments we receive by the date specified above will be 
considered in developing a final revised recovery plan, we encourage 
commenters to focus on those portions of the recovery plan that have 
been revised, particularly those topics noted above. Comments and 
materials we receive will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Office in Portland (see ADDRESSES).
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.


    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533 (f).

    Dated: September 2, 2010.
David Patte,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-22861 Filed 9-14-10; 8:45 am]