Judge orders government to revise plan to protect Pacific Northwest's northern spotted owls

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In what conservation groups say is a win for science over political manipulation, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must revise its recovery and habitat designation plans for the northern spotted owl.

Judge Emmet Sullivan said a 2008 plan issued during the Bush administration didn't stand up to scientific review. The judge also cited reports that a team working on the owl recovery plan had been advised to minimize the threat caused by habitat loss and to emphasize the harm caused by barred owls, which compete with northern spotted owls for food and habitat.

… The judge's ruling sends the plan back to the Fish & Wildlife Service for revision, as agency officials were expecting. The agency agreed the plan was flawed, legally indefensible and should be remanded, Portland spokeswoman Janet Lebson said.

"We had asked for a voluntary remand of the recovery plan anyway," she said. "We were already planning to have it done by the end of this year."