Washington Forest Protection Association

Northern Spotted Owl Conservation in Washington State

Map of Federal Forestland set aside through the Northwest Forest Plan in Washington State

How are the Northern Spotted Owls Protected?

Northwest Forest Plan

The Endangered Species Act listing of the Northern Spotted Owl initially resulted in three years of federal court management of the forest. Federal timber sales were halted until a coordinated management plan could be developed across the three-state range of the owl. To end the impasse, in 1993, President Clinton convened the Forest Conference in Portland to address the human and environmental needs served by the federal forests of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. He then directed his Cabinet to craft a balanced, comprehensive and long-term policy for the management of over 24 million acres of public land, which put about 88% of the land off limits to timber harvesting.

After more than 100,000 public comments were received on the proposed ecosystem management plan, on April 13, 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan became the cornerstone for conserving the Northern Spotted Owl and more than 1,000 wildlife and aquatic species associated with old-growth ecosystems. This comprehensive plan coordinates forest management across 19 National Forests, seven Bureau of Land Management Districts, six national parks, eight federal agencies, and covers 24.5 million acres in the three-state range.

In the plan, six land use categories were identified, including Riparian Reserves, Late-Successional Old Growth Reserves (LSR), Adaptive Management Areas and Matrix lands. The LSRs were designed to overlap the previously designated Critical Habitat Units (CHU), but the overlap wasn’t perfect. In Washington, LSRs overlap 82.5% of the CHU jurisdiction. Adding in the Riparian Reserves, an additional 1.2 million acres of habitat were set aside. Timber harvest would be allowed in the Matrix and Adaptive Management Areas, but federal harvesting ultimately was reduced 98% in Washington State.


  • Total Forestland
  • Northwest Forest Plan
  • Northwest Forest Plan Boundary

Owl Sites

Facts & Figures

The Northwest Forest Plan is the cornerstone of owl recovery.
4.1 million acres

In Washington alone, more than 4 million acres were added to permanently preserved federal forests and critical habitat through the Northwest Forest Plan.

Older habitat is growing

More than 600,000 acres of late successional forest per decade is being grown.