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Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance.

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Seattle Audubon Society v. Norton

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This case challenged the failure of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to develop and implement a Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan.

COURT INFORMATION:  United States District Court, W.D. Washington, No. C05-1835

CLIENTS:  Seattle Audubon Society and Kittitas Audubon Society

DEFENDANTS:  Gale Norton, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

STATUS:  Case settled in September, 2006; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agreed to develop and implement a recovery plan.

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BACKGROUND:  WFLC filed this lawsuit in early November, 2005 alleging that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) refused to plan for Northern Spotted Owl recovery even while the species' Washington population plummeted.  In 1990, the Service listed the Northern Spotted Owl as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because the species was in decline due to habitat loss caused by timber harvest.  This ESA listing triggered the Service’s obligations to develop and implement a Northern Spotted Owl recovery plan unless the Secretary of the Interior found that such a plan would not promote the conservation of the species.  The Service never determined that a recovery plan would not promote Northern Spotted Owl recovery, nor did the Service finalize or implement a recovery plan even though it committed itself to completing such plans within two and a half years of listing a species.  The Service’s lax approach to Spotted Owl recovery planning, the concurrent 7% annual decline in the Washington Spotted Owl population, and new threats to the species forced the Audubons to sue the Fish & Wildlife Service to force it to plan for Northern Spotted Owl recovery.

Read the complaint.

Read the notice of intent to file suit under the Endangered Species Act.

Learn more about our efforts to protect the Northern Spotted Owl.