Feds double critical habitat for spotted owl

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Obama administration’s overhaul of the strategy for saving northern spotted owls nearly doubles the amount of forest designated as habitat critical to the owl’s survival.

But conservation groups who went to court to force the overhaul of a plan made four years ago by the Bush administration say there are some key gaps, such as an exemption for private forest lands and most state forests.

The plan won’t be published until next week, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that 9 million acres of federal forests in Oregon, Washington and Northern California will come under it.

The plan makes room for logging to reduce wildfire danger and improve forest health.

The timber industry had no immediate comment.

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