Appeals court restores lumber companies' challenge to spotted owl habitat
WASHINGTON -- A top federal appeals court has added fuel to a long-running fight over federal protections for the northern spotted owl in Oregon, Washington and California.
In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the lumber companies united as the American Forest Resource Council have the legal standing to challenge the owl's designated "critical habitat." Federal officials in 2012 allocated more than 9.5 million acres in the three states as essential for the owl's survival.
"The council has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forest lands," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote, adding that there's also evidence that "council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forest lands."
Kavanaugh was joined in the decision by Judge Thomas Griffith, a fellow George W. Bush appointee, and by Sri Srinivasan, a judge appointed by former President Barack Obama. Though they were not ruling on the underlying merits of the Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat decision, the court's opinion vividly stressed the vast reach of the designation.