The Northern Spotted Owl–poster bird of the Northwest timber wars—is in steep decline in its historic range. Over the last five years, the number of endangered Spotted Owls dropped by an average of 7.5 percent a year in Washington, where the decline was most precipitous. Oregon registered a 2.8 percent annual decline while California’s numbers dropped by 2.2 percent a year.
The hard-to-spot owl emerged from obscurity to become a flashpoint for environmental politics in the Northwest. In the early 1990s, concern over waning owl populations gave rise to the Northwest Forest Plan, which sharply curtailed logging on federal land.