Congressman Bentz Statement on Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for Northern Spotted Owl

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) released the following statement regarding the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcementof the revised designation of critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.

I am extremely disappointed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has formally announced that they plan to withdraw the Trump Administration’s revised critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl(owl). Instead, the agency has decided that it will largely uphold the 2012 critical habitat rule, which includes over a million acres of land that are not, and never have been, actual owl habitat. These same acres are at extreme and deadly risk of catastrophic fire and are in desperate need of fuel reduction, something that the 2012 critical habitat rule makes almost impossible. Meanwhile, FWS has acknowledged that competition from the non-native Barred Owl is the primary factor causing the owl’s population to decline, yet the agency has done almost nothing to curb Barred Owl populations.

In April, I wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to express concern that returning to an overly broad critical habitat designation would prevent crucial forest management activities and would make uncontrollable wildfires even more likely. The FWS has yet to respond to my letter but has still moved forward with this proposed rule. In Oregon, the 2020 fire season alone destroyed more owl habitat in one National Forest than the previous seven years of timber harvests on 17 National Forests! These tragedies show that the Obama-era approach of locking up lands for ‘conservation’ is killing the owl, not to mention uprooting the lives of many Oregonians who have lost their homes, businesses, crops, and livestock to preventable fires.

With the Bootleg fire and others ravaging Oregon, it is clear that the destruction will continue until the Biden Administration’s federal land management agencies recognize that their misguided and politically motivated ‘management’ actions are killing our forests and the multitude of creatures within them. I know that the worst is yet to come, and I pray that the Biden Administration will see the urgency of this situation and reject the political posturing that is putting our forests, my constituents’ lives, and tens of millions of dollars of property at greater risk.