SCB reviews (again) the science on Northern Spotted Owl recovery
In December 2010, peer reviewers from three scientific societies (SCB, AOU, and TWS) reviewed the recovery plan for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl (see earlier blog post here). The reviewers found the plan was still inadequate in several major aspects. In particular, the reviews noted that the draft plan was released before completion of the habitat modeling that would be used to design the network of habitat reserves. Recently, the FWS has released Appendix C to the recovery plan, which describes in more detail those modeling methods. Despite a short comment timeline, SCB was able to recruit some of the same peer reviewers to review the Appendix. The reviewers generally found the methodology appropriate, but criticized the fact that there was still no information on the actual reserve scenarios that would be evaluated.
The reviewers stated “that it is essential that recovery planning documents and the recovery planning process:
1) Provide an operational definition of population recovery;
2) Clearly state the criteria that will be used to rank the various scenarios and management alternatives;
3) Designate critical habitat (CH) as part of the recovery planning process (preferably by a formally constituted recovery team);
4) Designate CH based on the best scientific data available with consideration of economic or other relevant issues;
5) Tie CH directly to the recovery objectives as a critical part of the risk assessment process—for example, the statement of recovery objectives as target probabilities of persistence over a specified time frame. For species threatened by habitat loss, these objectives can be expressed as a required amount and spatial arrangement of habitat needed for recovery;
6) Map CH with sufficiently high spatial resolution so that it distinguishes non-habitat from currently suitable habitat and habitat that is potentially suitable and necessary to meet recovery objectives;
7) Identify as CH those habitat areas, both occupied and currently unoccupied, that if protected in some suitable manner, ultimately allows the Service to determine that the species is no longer endangered or threatened based on the statutory listing factor addressing habitat;
8 ) Designate CH in such a manner as to: a) provide necessary information for Section 10 permits and HCPs; b) inform the process of land acquisition and incentives programs, and c) clarify the meaning of “harm” in the definition of “take.”;
9) Identify measures and actions to protect CH.
The full comments can be found here.