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Complaint Filed in Arizona Claims the Forest Service is Backsliding on protections for the threatened bird
Tucson, AZ-June 23. Yesterday in federal court WildEarth Guardians claimed that the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are removing the strong protections for the Mexican Spotted Owl that were won by environmentalists over a decade ago. The complaint asserts the agencies have disregarded their obligation to track the bird’s numbers in Arizona and New Mexico and inexcusably continue to approve logging, grazing and other activities that harm it, jeopardizing the owl’s existence.
The Mexican spotted owl was provided protection under the Endangered Species Act nearly two decades ago, and lawsuits by WildEarth Guardians lead to robust protections for the bird in the mid nineties. One of the strongest requirements was for the U.S. Forest Service to monitor the numbers of owls and the affects of its activities on the owl. However, WildEarth Guardians charges failure on the part of the agency to collect the critical information while continuing to hand out permits to harm the threatened bird.
“The government is driving blind,” Said Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director. “Their actions continue to hurt the spotted owl and they have no idea if the bird can survive. Just like in the Gulf oil spill, the government regulators are turning a blind eye.”
Recent moves by the forest service to weaken safeguards for the spotted owl in Arizona and New Mexico reveal their perception that it is only an annoyance, something inhibiting their agenda. The 1995 recovery plan for the Mexican spotted owl is due to be revised this year and documents obtained by WildEarth Guardians through the FOIA indicate the obligation to track the animal’s numbers will be gutted. In addition, draft forest plans from Arizona have dropped the standards and guidelines protecting the owl that were hard won by environmentalists over a decade ago.
“This irreplaceable owl -a canary in the coal mine - is considered simply a nuisance to the Forest Service,” Said Bird. “We ignore its well-being at our own peril and WildEarth Guardians will not allow that.”