Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Extends Effective Date for Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Rule

April 29, 2021

Contact(s):

Jodie Delavan, jodie_delavan@fws.gov or (503) 231-6984



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is delaying the effective date of the January 15, 2021, final critical habitat  rule for the northern spotted owl until December 15, 2021. This delay is necessary to avoid placing undue risk on the conservation of the northern spotted owl, caused by allowing exclusions from its designated critical habitat to go into effect, while the Service prepares a revision or withdrawal of the January 15, 2021 rule. The delay is also necessary to avoid confusion and disruption with federal agencies in the implementation of ESA section 7 consultations involving the northern spotted owl.

The Service’s August 11, 2020 initial proposed rule to revise the 2012 critical habitat designation would have excluded approximately 204,653 acres. This proposed rule was the result of a settlement agreement with labor representatives, the timber industry and several counties within the northern spotted owl’s range. The final rule excluded an additional 3.2 million acres of critical habitat that were not presented to the public for notice and comment.

On March 1, 2021, the Service delayed the final rule’s effective date to April 30 and opened a 30-day public comment period. During this period, we solicited input on issues of fact, law and policy raised by the January 2021 final critical habitat rule to determine whether further delay of the effective date was necessary. The public responded with more than 2,000 comments, and based on this information, the Service intends to prepare a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise or withdraw the January 2021 final rule to address issues that the public comments raised.

Northern spotted owls make their home in mature forests with dense canopies from southwest British Columbia through the Cascade Mountains and coastal ranges in Washington, Oregon and California.  

Since northern spotted owls were listed in 1990, habitat loss and modification due to timber harvesting, land conversions, natural disturbances such as fire and windstorms, and competition with encroaching barred owls have led to their decline throughout much of their historic range.  

  For more information, please visit the Federal Register Reading Room at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-09108/endangered-and-threatened-species-revised-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-the-northern-spotted.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/pacific or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.


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.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.