Fighting to protect the last remaining wild Spotted Owls

Photo by Jared Hobbs
Program area – Nature Status: In progress
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Before industrial logging in British Columbia, there were an estimated 500 pairs of spotted owls living in the old growth forests in southwest B.C. Today, there are only four owls left in the wild, three of which were only recently released from captivity.

This dramatic decline led Ecojustice to send a letter to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change in October 2020, demanding he recommend emergency order protections under the Species at Risk Act.

On behalf of Wilderness Committee, Ecojustice argued that decades of provincial mismanagement had left spotted owls without legal protection and decimated the old-growth forests where they once lived.

In February 2021, thanks to the leadership of the Spo’zem First Nation and with support from Ecojustice and Wilderness Committee, the provincial government announced a one-year halt to all logging within the forests of Spô’zêm First Nation territory, specifically the Spuzzum and Utzlius watersheds. The protection of these watersheds was extended to February 2023. These watersheds are home to the last known wild spotted owls in Canada.

Despite the short-term win, there still is not a permanent solution to protect spotted owls and their habitat.

That’s why in October 2022, Ecojustice, on behalf of Wilderness Committee, once again called on the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fulfil his legal responsibility to protect this species and their habitat by recommending an emergency order to protect the habitat necessary for spotted owl to survive and recover.

Before the B.C. government’s release of three spotted owls from the captive breeding program, there was only one known spotted owl left in the wild in all of Canada.

Spotted owls need old growth forest to survive and recover. Despite this, the B.C. government continues to allow logging in spotted owl habitat through the province’s own logging agency, BC Timber Sales. Additionally, B.C. is one of the few provinces that lacks a standalone law to protect endangered species – even though it is home to more than 2,000 species at risk.

Without federal intervention to protect the species, Ecojustice and Wilderness Committee argue, spotted owls — and their old-growth forest habitat — are at serious risk of disappearing from the wild.

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