The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed a 204,653-acre reduction of designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl in 15 Oregon counties.

The owls, which are deemed “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, had 9.6 million acres designated for habitat in California, Oregon and Washington in 2012.

“The proposed exclusions will allow fuels management and sustainable timber harvesting to move forward while supporting the recovery of the northern spotted owl,” Robyn Thorson, FWS Regional Director for the Columbia-Pacific Northwest, said in a release. “To strike this balance, the Service employed the best available science and worked closely with federal, state and tribal partners to evaluate needed exclusions, meet our legal obligations and update management plans.”

According to the FWS, northern spotted owl numbers are currently declining at the average rate of 2.8% range-wide each year, and suitable habitat available to the owls has been reduced by over 60% in the last 190 years.

The proposal is being prepared under a section of the Endangered Species Act that allows the exclusion of certain lands as critical habitat for “economic, national security or other relevant factors so long as such exclusion does not cause the species to go extinct.”

Members of the public can comment on the proposed changes here.

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