Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) recovery strategy: chapter 18

15 Recovery Objectives

Recovery objectives have been established to address the short- and long-term needs of the population. This includes identifying immediate actions (short term) required to address the critically low population size and high risk of extirpation, as well as identifying benchmarks required to down-list the species and remove the threat of extirpation over the long term.


15.1 Immediate Objectives

The immediate objective is to stop the population decline to prevent extirpation in British Columbia.

Between 1992 and 2002, the population is thought to have declined by 67%, and extirpation appears imminent within the next few years. To increase adult recruitment rates equivalent to or to exceed adult mortality rates, the biologically limiting factors (see section 4) that influence Spotted Owl survival, reproduction, and recruitment need to be addressed. To prevent extirpation, factors that threaten the species’ survival in British Columbia (see section 5) also need to be addressed. These threats to the population must be reduced or eliminated to allow for more favourable conditions so that the species can reach a stable, self-sustaining population size. Interim recommendations to address these needs were drafted by the SORT in January 2003 (see Appendix 1).


15.2 Population Objectives

The overall population objective is to increase the number of Spotted Owls to maintain a stable, self-sustaining population distributed throughout its natural range in British Columbia.

COSEWIC reconfirmed the Spotted Owl as Endangered in Canada in May 2000 because of the very low numbers and because, as a habitat specialist, it requires old-growth coniferous forests, which are decreasing in extent and becoming highly fragmented (see section 1).

Because the population size in British Columbia is critically low, the Spotted Owl is extremely vulnerable to extirpation from stochastic events. Increasing the population size will lower this vulnerability and provide for a more stable population that is more resilient to fluctuations in population size. As well, maintaining populations distributed as widely as possible across the overall natural range of environments and habitats occupied by the species would result in a population that is less vulnerable to stochastic events.

To down-list the species to COSEWIC’s Threatened status, the long-term recovery objective is to increase the population to a minimum of 250 mature individuals (owls older than 2 years) distributed through the natural range of the Spotted Owl in British Columbia. It is recognized that some portions of the historic range are no longer capable of restoring a natural population (e.g., Lower Fraser River Valley).


15.3 Habitat Objectives

The overall habitat objective is to conserve and restore sufficient habitat throughout the species’ natural range to support a self-sustaining population of Spotted Owls in British Columbia.

Habitat provides all of the life requisites needed for the Spotted Owl to survive. The amount, distribution, and quality of habitat influence population size and stability. In portions of the species’ range, habitat restoration is needed to increase the likelihood of sustaining the owl population. To down-list to COSEWIC’s Threatened status, a sufficient amount, distribution, and quality of habitat must be conserved and restored across the species’ natural range to support a self-sustaining population of Spotted Owls in British Columbia.


1.5.4 Other Supporting Objectives

Other supporting objectives include increasing the communication aspects of recovery, developing appropriate partnerships, and finding sources of funding.

Recovery of the Spotted Owl in British Columbia is too large an undertaking for any one party to accomplish alone. Recovery actions will be costly, will affect numerous stakeholders, and will likely be closely scrutinized by the media, the public, the forest industry and environmental groups. Success of recovery actions will depend on the level of financial support, effective communication of the best available science to stakeholders and interested parties, and the creation of functional multi-stakeholder partnerships. These supporting objectives are important to all three preceding objectives.

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