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Joan Jewett, (503) 231-6121

Service Awards Contracts for Reviews of Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet

Two internationally recognized scientific consulting firms will help conduct reviews of the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet to see how they have fared since being listed for protection more than a decade ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. Both species are listed as threatened and are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).         To view Q&As click here.

The Sustainable Ecosystems Institute (SEI) of Portland will review and evaluate information about the northern spotted owl, while EDAW of Seattle will review and evaluate marbled murrelet information. Both contractors were selected on the basis of their proposals to assemble panels of scientific experts and their past performance in contracts for the Service and many other government agencies. The Service must complete the reviews by April 30, 2004.

"These two firms will bring together some of the best scientific minds available to compile and analyze the immense amount of information that exists on these two species," said Dave Allen, Regional Director of the Service’s Pacific Region. "We’re confident that the support we get from the contractors, coupled with our own scientific expertise, will produce the best possible result."

"The contractors will not be making any recommendations on legal protection for the species," Allen added. "That finding will remain solely the purview of the Fish and Wildlife Service."

The experts will be required to evaluate (a) the quality of all available relevant information; (b) the validity of the conclusions drawn from the information; and (c) if no conclusions were drawn from that information, what, if any, conclusions may be appropriate. The teams will also be asked to interpret the evaluated and synthesized information, including an assessment of the threats to the populations.

The two firms will produce reports that include a record of all new information available since the listing of these two species, and the scientific interpretation of that information. Using those reports, the Service will then determine whether Federal protections for the owl and murrelet should be increased, decreased or remain the same. If the Service proposes a change in Federal protections, the agency would begin a separate rule-making process that would include public participation.

Using contract scientists will enable the Service to meet its deadline for completing the reviews without diverting staff biologists from other important projects. Over the years, the agency has contracted with independent scientists to develop recovery plans and do status reviews of candidate species, Allen said, "allowing us to fulfill our mission when staff are needed for other high priority work."

The Sustainable Ecosystem Institute will receive $414,737 for its review of the northern spotted owl. EDAW will be paid $348,916 for the marbled murrelet review. The Service assessed specific criteria, using a panel process, to select SEI and EDAW after reviewing bids from five potential contractors: two who bid on the spotted owl review and three who bid on the marbled murrelet review.

Hundreds of articles, studies and reports are known to exist on the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. Proposals from SEI and EDAW indicated they would convene panels of independent scientists, including species experts, to review all available materials. Other panelists will include experts in such fields as genetics, forest ecology and population dynamics.

The Service agreed to initiate the review of these two species in connection with the settlement of two recent lawsuits: Western Council of Industrial Workers, et al v. Secretary of the Interior (regarding the northern spotted owl), and American Forest Resource Council et at v. Secretary of the Interior (regarding the marbled murrelet). The lawsuits alleged the Service had failed to conduct reviews of the two species every five years, as required by the ESA.

The northern spotted owl was listed in 1990 and the marbled murrelet was listed in 1992. Comprehensive research and monitoring programs for both species have been carried out and are ongoing on both Federal and non-Federal (state, private, tribal) lands. Although this information has been made public throughout the past decade, and the Service has continued to use the best available data in carrying out its ESA responsibilities, this information has not been evaluated under the ESA's 5-year review process.

"The purpose of the reviews is to ensure that the species have the appropriate level of protection under the ESA," Allen said. "Reviewing the latest information will lead to better management and improved conservation of the species."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.




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