Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project

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Spotted owl data review and management plan for the Fraser TSA

Author(s): Keystone Wildlife Research
Imprint: White Rock, BC : Keystone wildlife Research Ltd., 2003
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), Northern spotted owl, Endangered Species, British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program


Over the past two decades, there has been a great deal of concern surrounding the status of the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) throughout its entire range in both the United States and Canada. The Canadian population exists only in south-western British Columbia, where it is at the northern extent of the species' range. The spotted owl is considered red-listed (endangered/threatened) in the province, and is listed as 'endangered' federally. The spotted owl has been a species of management concern since sharp declines in its populations were noted in the United States in the 1980's (Gutiérrez 1985). The drop in owl numbers was associated with habitat loss due to harvesting of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Measures to restrict timber harvest within the owl's habitat have resulted in long-term and ongoing conflicts between American land management agencies, environmental groups, and timber interests (Marcot and Thomas 1997). Although much spotted owl research has been done in the US, relatively little information is available regarding the species in Canada. A lack of knowledge in a combination of areas, including specific spotted owl habitat use, effects of habitat loss, causes of population decline, dispersal distance, and actual population numbers have resulted in problems in developing management strategies for the owl population in BC. The historic range of the spotted owl in British Columbia extended west to the Squamish River, north to Pemberton, east to Spuzzum and south to the international border. The species has not been abundant in B.C. Up to 1985, there were only 28 spotted owl records for the province. The provincial population was estimated at fewer than 100 pairs in 1994 (Dunbar and Blackburn 1994). In 1994, the Canadian Spotted Owl Recovery Team (CSORT) released the document entitled 'Management Options for the Northern Spotted Owl in British Columbia' (Dunbar and Blackburn 1994). That report provided the Provincial Cabinet with a choice of six management options spanning the scale from maximum to minimum protection for the spotted owl. In June 1995, the provincial government announced a broad strategy to develop a new plan to manage spotted owls in the province using the Protected Areas Strategy, Forest Practices Code and other land-use and resource management initiatives (MELP 1997). The Spotted Owl Management Interagency Team (SOMIT) released the Spotted Owl Management Plan (SOMP) in 1997 (SOMIT 1997 a, b, c). The goal of the SOMP was to halt the decline in numbers and stabilize the owl population over the long term, although continued declines in the owl population were expected in the short term. BC government staff have been collecting data about the northern spotted owl since 1989. Results of recent (2000 and 2001) surveys by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (MWLAP) have found evidence of a 40% decline in the owl population, and suggest that only 50 pairs of owls may exist in BC's south-western forests (Blackburn et al. 2002). Because of these findings, the management plan is being re-examined. A new Spotted Owl Recovery Team has been formed to draft a recovery plan for the spotted owl in this province. Between 1992 and 2001, research surveys on the northern spotted owl were conducted by the provincial government (Blackburn et al. 2002). The BC government prepared a spotted owl survey protocol in 1995 (Blackburn and Lenihan 1995), and generalized survey procedures for raptors (RIC 2001) were released by the Resources Inventory Committee (RIC; now renamed the Resources Inventory and Standards Committee, or RISC).
The objectives of this report are to:
- review and digitise existing data from provincial government inventory and research surveys
- provide descriptive statistics for and summarise the existing data
- identify data gaps by examining the methodology defined in the present inventory standards, outlining the results and methodology used in the owl studies, and providing recommendations for future work
- provide a literature review of spotted owl biology and management
- outline an alternative management plan for spotted owls, including information needs.

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Updated August 02, 2006 

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