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Federal Court Halts Projects in Arizona and New Mexico that Could Jeopardize Mexican Spotted Owl

Date
January 5, 2012
Contact
Bryan Bird (505) 988-9126 x1157
In This Release
Wildlife

Thursday, January 5, 2012
Federal Court Halts Projects in Arizona and New Mexico that Could Jeopardize Mexican Spotted Owl

Tracking the Bird’s Response to Human Activities at the Heart of WildEarth Guardians’ Lawsuit
Contact: Bryan Bird (505) 988-9126 x1157

TUCSON,Ariz.— A federal judge on Thursday ruledfor WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) in a lawsuit that challenged the U.S.Forest Service’s failure to monitor populations of the Mexican spotted owl innational forests throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Guardians requested thecourt halt several major projects that would impact the bird’s habitat untilthe Forest Service could demonstrate compliance with the Endangered SpeciesAct.

Thelawsuit filed last year alleged that the Forest Service failed to monitorpopulations of the Mexican spotted owl as required by a 2005 agreement with theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). But in October 2008 the Serviceissued a report admitting it had not done the monitoring. It also admitted thatit might have exceeded its allowable quota of harm to some species, includingthe Mexican spotted owl. Guardians alleged that the agency had no idea what theaffects of its actions are on the owl without tracking changes in its numbers.

“The Forest Service promised it wouldcount the numbers of the Mexican spotted owl and it hasn’t” said Bryan Bird of Guardians.“But the agency continued business as usual with no idea how this imperiledbird is faring. It took a federal lawsuit to give the owl some much neededattention.”

Today’sruling prevents the Forest Service from implementing several large-scale forestprojects that could have a negative impact on the Mexican spotted owl untilUSFWS can approve a new plan for protecting the bird. The court order stops loggingon the Upper Beaver Creek timber sale and the Phase II Utility MaintenanceProject in Arizona as well as the Perk-Grindstone Project in southern NewMexico.

“With this decision, the courtaffirms the common sense notion that the Forest Service can’t simply ignore itsobligations to conserve the most imperiled wildlife. “ Said Steve Sugarman,counsel for WildEarth Guardians in the case. “Even the Forest Service wasforced to admit that it failed to comply with its clear legal duty to monitorthe population trend of Mexican spotted owls. Hopefully, it will now develop anhonest and workable plan to protect this amazing species.”

Toview Thursday’s ruling, click here.

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The lawsuit filed last year alleged that the Forest Service failed to monitor populations of the Mexican spotted owl as required by a 2005 agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). But in October 2008 the Service issued a report admitting it had not done the monitoring. It also admitted that it might have exceeded its allowable quota of harm to some species, including the Mexican spotted owl. Guardians alleged that the agency had no idea what the affects of its actions are on the owl without tracking changes in its numbers.
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