Leading a local community in appreciating, understanding, and protecting birds and their natural habitats.

Northern Spotted Owl

Seattle Audubon is the lead organization in Washington State advocating for the protection and restoration of Northern Spotted Owl habitat. As a critical indicator species for the health of our Northwest forests, the owl has been at the center of our conservation efforts for more than 25 years. They are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” reflecting the health and trends of the land upon which we ourselves depend.

Forest habitat in Washington State continues to be lost at alarming rates. For non-federal forest lands in Washington State, the decline of the Northern Spotted Owl has accelerated in recent years, with populations in some areas of the state declining by 40 to 50 percent since 1990. The owl has lost more than 16,000 acres of suitable habitat on non-federal land under the State’s current forest practices rules. Those regulations allow for massive harvest of owl habitat, including the actual nest tree in many instances. In addition, landowners are not required to disclose known owls on their property prior to obtaining a logging permit.

In light of these challenges, Seattle Audubon is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to address forest habitat loss in Washington State. We are working directly with policymakers and other key stakeholders, pressing to shift both federal and state policy towards providing meaningful forest habitat protections for Northern Spotted Owls. Seattle Audubon is:

  • Representing conservation organizations in a multi-party collaborative process with, timber industry representatives and government agencies to identify new landowner incentives and regulatory changes to provide better conservation benefits for the owl on private forest lands in Washington state;
  • Leading the effort to protect nesting habitat for the owl, advising the state review panel regarding any applications to “decertify” Northern Spotted Owl nesting sites;
  • Researching and advocating for science-based rules and tax policy changes that could benefit owls, as well as mobilizing our membership and other individuals to communicate their views directly to policy makers;
  • Successfully challenging the flawed 2008 federal Recovery Plan for the spotted owl, as well as overturning the effort to reduce habitat protections for owls on more than 1.6 million acres of forest lands; and
  • Working directly with the federal agencies to address the range of challenges facing the owl, from continued habitat loss to competition from Barred Owls. This includes collaborating with the federal agencies in developing updated survey protocols for finding Northern Spotted Owls, as well as participating in an examination of the ethical issues surrounding potential removal of Barred Owls from Northern Spotted Owl forest habitat.

 Links to most recent activity

Links to older information 

  • BirdWeb – About the Northern Spotted Owl


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