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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday it is proposing reversing a Trump-era decision to eliminate critical habitat protections for the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest.
Proposed rules published in the Federal Register say the move by political appointees of former President Donald Trump would have stripped protections of 3.4 million acres to make room for the logging industry.
Information obtained by the Associated Press ahead of the decision pointed to concerns the administration relied on faulty science in its move to open up the old growth forest landscape for logging.
The long-awaited move was reported in October by E&E News Greenwire over the fate of the reclusive owl found in California, Oregon and Washington.
The controversy over logging and the northern spotted owl became a tempest that put industry, livelihoods and conservation into an ugly arena of litigation.
In the mid-1990s, the federal government rejected an effort by the logging industry to remove the species from its protected classification.
Over the years, the industry has predicted it would suffer incalculable losses in an era that now sees shortages and high prices in timber.
Logging threatens the nesting habitat of the bird, and other threats include climate change.
Not long after she was appointed, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said she would revisit the Trump-era decision over the northern spotted owl, according to the Associated Press.