The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period on the revised draft recovery plan for the Northern spotted owl. Revised. Reopened. Can you tell it’s been a long haul for this plan?
It’s a 2008 draft that’s taking a long time to finalize – in part because of lawsuits from both the timber industry and environmental groups, and in part because of an inspector general report that it was politically manipulated Bush administration.
Turns out, one of the signature pieces of the revised plan was one of the most controversial. Not the part about killing of barred owls to save spotted owls (though that’s controversial too). It was the nifty new modeling tool the Service plans to use to estimate the way logging, not logging and removing barred owls would affect the spotted owl’s survival.
USFWS says both sides of the traditional spotted owl controversy – environmental groups and the timber industry – wanted to know more about the model in the initial rounds of public comments. And the timber industry actually sued the feds over the planning process. As OPB’s Rob Manning reports today, the federal agency has responded by delaying the plan. Officials had initially said they wanted it out by the end of last year.
Now Fish and Wildlife is asking for public comments specifically on the habitat modeling portion of the plan.
But the timber industry still isn’t satisfied. The public review doesn’t include enough of revisions to the plan, several groups said in a letter released today. And there isn’t much time left before the plan needs to be final. The public comment period is due to close May 23rd. The Fish and Wildlife is under court order to produce a final plan right after that – by June 1st.