Killing barred owls to study the potential effects on threatened spotted owls does not violate federal environmental laws, according to a federal judge.

Populations of the northern spotted owl, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act, have continued to decline in recent decades despite strict limits on logging.

Federal scientists believe the problem is partly due to the barred owl, a rival species that’s more adaptable, occupies similar habitats and competes for food.

In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized an experiment to remove 3,600 barred owls over four years, typically by shooting them, to see if spotted owl recovery improves.

Read more at the Capital Press.