Excerpt from the Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon….
A coalition representing counties, business and labor has reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will initiate a public regulatory rulemaking process for reevaluating critical habitat designated for the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a news release.
The agreement was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is subject to court approval.
The agreement is related to a unanimous 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision finding the ESA does not authorize the government to designate lands as critical habitat unless it is in fact habitat for the species. The Supreme Court also ruled that courts can review government evaluations of the impact of designating critical habitat, which the lower courts had refused to allow for over 30 years.
The coalition brought legal action after the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 9.5 million acres of mostly federal lands as NSO critical habitat across Washington, Oregon and Northern California in 2012. This was 38 percent more than was set aside in 1992 following the listing of the NSO. The coalition’s legal action focused on the inclusion of millions of acres of forests not occupied by the species, including over 1.1 million acres of federal lands designated for active forest management activities and where no owls are present.