Awards Contracts for Reviews of Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet
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).
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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