Northern Spotted Owl Species Profile

Critical Habitat

Conservation Partnerships

Barred Owl

Survey Protocol


Images & Videos

Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Information Site
Recovery Plan

Photo - Owl banding (USFWS).

Recovering the Northern Spotted Owl

In the northern spotted owl recovery plan , the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes three overarching recommendations:  1) protect the best of the spotted owl’s remaining habitat, 2) revitalize forest ecosystems through active management, and 3) reduce competition from the encroaching barred owl.  

To protect the best of the spotted owl’s remaining habitat, we recommend conserving spotted owl sites and high quality habitat across the landscape.  This means the habitat protections provided under land use plans on federal lands will continue to be a focus of recovery, but protection of other areas is likely needed to achieve full success (including some areas previously slated for timber production on federal lands, and possibly some non-federal lands in certain parts of the owl’s range where federal lands are limited). 

To revitalize forest ecosystems through active management, we recommend actions that make forest ecosystems healthier and more resilient to the effects of climate change and catastrophic wildfire, disease, and insect outbreaks.  This involves an “ecological forestry” approach in certain areas, which may include carefully applied prescriptions such as fuels treatment to reduce the threat of severe fires, thinning to help older trees grow faster, and restoration to enhance habitat and return the natural dynamics of a healthy forest landscape.  We also recommend continually evaluating and refining active forest management techniques.

To reduce competition from the encroaching barred owl, we recommend managing barred owl populations to give the spotted owl a chance to rebound enough that the two species may eventually be able to co-exist.  To test the feasibility and effectiveness of barred owl management, we are proposing experimental removal of barred owls in certain portions of the spotted owl’s range to see what effect this has on spotted owls.  If the experiment proceeds and the effects on spotted owls are positive, we may consider the efficacy and feasibility of barred owl removal on a broader scale.

What is a Recovery Plan?

Recovery plans consolidate the best available scientific information on listed species and make recommendations on actions needed to achieve recovery.  They guide conservation and habitat management activities to help listed species rebound to the point they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. 

Recovery plans do not establish regulations or restrictions on activities such as land use and management.  They do, however, play an important role in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s consultation with other federal agencies when their proposed actions have the potential to affect a listed species. 

Photo - Forest site (USFWS).

Additional Information


Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl

Past Recovery Plan Documents