Peer Review of Scientific Information
Pacific Region

Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl

About the Document

Title: Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl

Estimated dissemination date of the final version of the document:  November, 2012.

Kind of peer review that will be conducted:  We solicited peer review both from individuals with known expertise, and relevant agencies representatives.

About the Peer Review Process

The following is an excerpt from the request letter that was sent the end of March, 2012:

We are soliciting your review of the Proposed Revised Critical Habitat Rule for the Northern Spotted Owl.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is soliciting independent peer review to ensure that the best biological and commercial information was used in the rule-making process, as well as to ensure that reviews by recognized experts are incorporated into the review process of rulemakings in accordance with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

This proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on March 8, 2012, and a copy is enclosed for your review.  In addition, we have included the White Paper on Habitat Modeling (also referred to as Dunk et al. 2012) which provides additional detail on the methods used to identify critical habitat.  The public comment period will be open until June 6, 2012 (been extended to July 6, 2012).  Your comments must be received during this period to be considered in the preparation of the final recovery plan.

While the Service would like all scientific and technical elements of the rule reviewed, there are key areas the Service would like to highlight for your attention.  While the rule contains a large amount of material pertaining to policy, we are particularly interested in your review of the underlying science.  Please tier your responses, as appropriate, to the goal of achieving the recovery objectives for identifying critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (page 142 of the rule), and to your specific areas of expertise.  The following are some of the most important aspects of the proposal we would like you to focus on in your review; however, we welcome your comments on any aspect of the proposed rule. 

  1. This rule represents a substantial increase in the total acreage included in critical habitat, acknowledging the impact that barred owls likely have on spotted owl population performance. Given the assumptions made about barred owl effects, does this critical habitat network provide sufficient habitat for the spotted owl?
  2. Does the critical habitat network adequately encompass the geographic range of the northern spotted owl and represent the range of habitat types used by the species?
  3. This rule considers emerging science on active forest management to maintain ecological function.  Does the proposed rule adequately balance active forest management with conservation of late-successional forest to provide sufficient habitat for northern spotted owls?
  4. Is there relevant information available we did not incorporate into the critical habitat modeling process (thoroughness), and have we interpreted the existing scientific information in a reasonable way (scientific consistency)?
  5. Does the proposed revised critical habitat rule correctly express the key assumptions and uncertainties underlying the scientific and technical information it used, particularly in regard to spotted owl habitat, demographic trends, and influence of barred owls on spotted owls?
  6. Were the analytical methods used (MaxEnt, Zonation, Hexsim) appropriate for identifying critical habitat?  Please refer to the Modeling Methods White Paper for details about these methods.
  7. The modeling process attempted to incorporate both scientific uncertainty and demographic (stochastic) variation.  Were methods used to incorporate uncertainty and variability appropriate?

Number of reviewers:  We requested peer review from approximately 40 people and agency representatives.
Reviewer Expertise: Primary disciplines or expertise needed in the review (describe).  Please see letter referenced above. Several scientific organizations are engaged in conducting a scientific review.

Selection of Peer Reviewer:  Reviewers selected by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office

Start date of peer review:  End of March, 2012.

About Public Participation

Public comment:  Comment period was open from March 6, 2012 to June 6, 2012, and were extended to July 6, 2012. Comments were submitted following the normal Federal Register process.

Click here to view the peer review request form

Peer Review Participants

Last Name

First Name




University of Wyoming, Department of Geography



Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service



Oregon State University



School of Forest Resources, University of Washington



Weyerhaeuser Company






Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service



Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service



Rogue River- Siskiyou National Forest



Green Diamond Resource Company,



Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service



Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Forest Resources & Conservation Division



APHIS-USDA, National Wildlife Research Center



Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service



Oregon State University, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society



USGS, Corvallis Forestry Sciences Lab, U.S. Forest Service

Unsolicited reviews were also received from The Wildlife Society and The Society for Conservation Biology/American Ornithologist’s Union (combined review).

Read comments from peer reviewers in the Final Critical Habitat Rule starting on page 491


For more information on this peer review please contact  Betsy Glenn and Jody Caicco 503/231-6179


Last updated: November 5, 2013
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