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Northern Spotted Owl Information Site


Restoring Vitality to Our Northwest Forests

The old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest are some of America’s most amazing natural assets. The legacy of these forests was called to the forefront more than 20 years ago when the northern spotted owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California.

The spotted owl came to symbolize the need for strong protections for forest-dwellers and their habitat, leading to the groundbreaking Northwest Forest Plan in 1994.  Draft 20-year monitoring reports for the Northwest Forest Plan were recently released in June 2015.

Read the 20-year monitoring reports 

  • Recovery Plan

    Photo of a northern spotted owl (Photo credit: USFWS)

    Recovering the Northern Spotted Owl

    In the northern spotted owl recovery plan, revised in 2011, 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.

    Get the full Recovery Plan

  • Barred Owl Threat

    Photo of a barred owl in the forest (Photo credit: USFWS)

    Encroaching Competitor Adds to Spotted Owl's Struggle

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified competition from barred owls as one of two main threats to the northern spotted owl’s continued `survival (habitat loss is the other). We are conducting an experiment to test the effects of removing barred owls from certain areas of spotted owl habitat to see if it would benefit spotted owls. Removal of some members of a common species to protect or recover a rare species is only used in the most serious conservation situations.

    Learn more....

  • Critical Habitat

    Photo of a northern spotted owl (Photo credit: USFWS/Jim Thrailkill)

    Protecting the Northern Spotted Owl's Habitat

    A critical habitat designation is for land within the range of a species at the time it is listed that has the physical or biological features essential for the conservation of a species and that may require special management. For the northern spotted owl, these features include particular forest types of sufficient area, quality, and configuration to support the needs of territorial owl pairs, including habitat for nesting, roosting, foraging, and dispersal.

    View Critical Habitat Maps and Download Critical Habitat GIS Layer

  • Survey Protocol

    Photo of a northern spotted owl (Photo credit: USFWS)

    Monitoring Spotted Owl Populations

    Monitoring spotted owl populations throughout the species’ range in Washington, Oregon, and California is an extensive effort conducted among several agencies and partners. These efforts are not designed to count the number of individual spotted owls but rather to gather sampling data from which population trends are derived. 

    View Survey Protocols and Safety Guidelines

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