ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. judge approved an agreement between environmentalists and federal managers that will clear the way for both forest restoration efforts and logging to resume in the Southwest.
The court had limited tree-cutting and restoration projects on national forest lands in New Mexico and Arizona last year pending the outcome of a battle over the threatened Mexican spotted owl. WildEarth Guardians had accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to comply with the Endangered Species Act by not regularly monitoring the owl population.
Under the agreement, federal managers will track population trends through 2025 and conduct research to better understand the effects on the owl of thinning and prescribed burning in forests. Surveys also will be done prior to ground-disturbing activities and known owl habitat will be protected.
The agreement applies to all 11 national forests in the New Mexico and Arizona.
The resolution follows another agreement reached over the summer with the Center for Biological Diversity that included a set of recommendations and other provisions aimed at protecting the owl while allowing thinning projects to move forward.
First listed as threatened in the U.S. in 1993, the Mexican spotted owl is found in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, parts of West Texas and Mexico.