Endangered Species:

Spotted Owl Petition Evaluation Beset by Problems

RCED-89-79: Published: Feb 21, 1989. Publicly Released: Feb 21, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) decision to deny a petition to list the northern spotted owl as an endangered species.

GAO found that FWS: (1) delayed its decision about whether to conduct a study; (2) did not allow adequate time for a study team to conduct a thorough investigation; (3) extensively rewrote the draft report to support denial of the listing petition, even though the study team concluded that the owl was probably endangered; (4) considered factors unrelated to the owl's biological condition, inconsistently with the relevant statute; and (5) did not thoroughly document the petition process. GAO also found that FWS: (1) considered the Endangered Species Act cumbersome to implement; (2) believed that interested parties would delay owl protection initiatives and initiate costly legal actions; and (3) believed that cooperative agreements with other federal agencies would enable some protective efforts at less cost to the government.

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