Five prominent environmental groups have launched a lawsuit against Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose for failing to protect Canada's 17 remaining spotted owls. The lawsuit was launched in response to an announcement by Ambrose that "the Northern Spotted Owl does not currently face imminent threats to its survival or recovery."
Although an additional 3,000 to 6,000 owls remain in the US Pacific Northwest, Canada's population, all of which resides in the old growth forests of BC, has suffered a rapid decline in recent years, largely due to industrial logging in their habitat. With an original population estimated at 500, that number dropped to 100 in 1997, 23 in 2005, and now stands at 17 remaining birds.
Minister Ambrose maintains that the BC government is providing adequate protection for the remaining owls and there is no need for the feds to stop in. However, conservation groups say that the provincial recovery strategy is only a short-term PR exercise to avoid a political fallout during Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Games. The provincial plan calls for a captive breeding project that expires after the Olympics and completely fails to protect the old growth forests needed for the bird's long-term survival. The federal government has the authority to protect endangered species residing on provincial lands through Canada's Species at Risk Act.