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President Obama's Spotted Owl Memo

President Obama's Spotted Owl Memo

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Published by Amelia Templeton
A memo, signed by President Barack Obama, guiding how a new critical habitat designation for the spotted owl will be reviewed and implemented by the administration. Published by http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/ 2/28/12
A memo, signed by President Barack Obama, guiding how a new critical habitat designation for the spotted owl will be reviewed and implemented by the administration. Published by http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/ 2/28/12

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Published by: Amelia Templeton on Feb 29, 2012
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07/10/2013

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THE WHITE HOUSEOffice of the Press SecretaryFor Immediate Release February 28, 2012February 28, 2012MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIORSUBJECT: Proposed Revised Habitat for the SpottedOwl: Minimizing Regulatory BurdensToday, compelled by court order, the Department of the Interior(Department) proposed critical habitat for the northern spottedowl. The proposal is an initial step in gathering importantinformation that will inform a final decision on what areasshould be designated as critical habitat for the spotted owl,based on a full evaluation of all key criteria: the relevantscience, economic considerations, the impact on nationalsecurity, and a balancing of other factors.Executive Order 13563 of January 18, 2011 (Improving Regulationand Regulatory Review), explicitly states that our "regulatorysystem must protect public health, welfare, safety, and ourenvironment while
 promoting economic growth, innovation,competitiveness, and job creation
" (emphasis added). Consistentwith this mandate, Executive Order 13563 requires agencies totailor "regulations to impose
the least burden on society 
,consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives" (emphasisadded). Executive Order 13563 also requires agencies to"identify and consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdensand maintain flexibility and freedom of choice" while selecting"those approaches that maximize net benefits." To the extentpermitted by law, our regulatory system must respect theserequirements.The Endangered Species Act (ESA) states: "[t]he Secretary shalldesignate critical habitat . . . on the basis of the bestscientific data available and
after taking into considerationthe economic impact
, the impact on national security, and
any other relevant impact
, of specifying any particular area ascritical habitat" (emphasis added). 16 U.S.C. 1533(b). The ESAalso provides that "[t]he Secretary may
exclude any area fromcritical habitat if he determines that the benefits of suchexclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as partof the critical habitat
, unless he determines, based on the bestscientific and commercial data available, that the failure todesignate such area as critical habitat will result in theextinction of the species concerned" (emphasis added). Id.Under the ESA, scientific, economic, and other considerationsare relevant to critical habitat designations. Under aregulation issued by the Department in 1984, however, theeconomic analysis follows the scientific assessment, rather thanbeing presented simultaneously with it; one of the purposes ofthis memorandum is to direct you to propose revisions to thatregulation.
 
2Consistent with the ESA and Executive Order 13563, today'sproposed rule emphasizes the importance of flexibility andpragmatism. The proposed rule notes the need to consider "theeconomic impact" of the proposed rule, outlines a series ofpotential exclusions from the proposed critical habitat, andasks for public comments on those exclusions and on otherpossible exclusions. Private lands and State lands are amongthe potential exclusions, based on a recognition that habitattypically is best protected when landowners are workingcooperatively to promote forest health, and a recognition -- asdiscussed in the proposed rule -- that the benefits of excludingprivate lands and State lands may be greater than the benefitsof including those areas in critical habitat.Importantly, the proposed rule recommends, on the basis ofextensive scientific analysis, that areas identified as criticalhabitat should be subject to active management, includinglogging, in order to produce the variety of stands of treesrequired for healthy forests. The proposal rejects thetraditional view that land managers should take a "hands off"approach to forest habitat in order to promote species health;on-going logging activity may be needed to enhance forestresilience.In order to avoid unnecessary costs and burdens and to advancethe principles of Executive Order 13563, consistent with theESA, I hereby direct you to take the following actions:(1) publish, within 90 days of the date of thismemorandum, a full analysis of the economic impacts ofthe proposed rule, including job impacts, and makethat analysis available for public comment;(2) consider excluding private lands and State lands fromthe final revised critical habitat, consistent withapplicable law and science;(3) develop clear direction, as part of the final rule,for evaluating logging activity in areas of criticalhabitat, in accordance with the scientific principlesof active forestry management and to the extentpermitted by law;(4) carefully consider all public comments on the relevantscience and economics, including those comments thatsuggest potential methods for minimizing regulatoryburdens;(5) give careful consideration to providing the maximumexclusion from the final revised critical habitat,consistent with applicable law and science; and(6) to the extent permitted by law, adopt the leastburdensome means, including avoidance of unnecessaryburdens on States, tribes, localities, and the privatesector, of promoting compliance with the ESA,considering the range of innovative ecosystemmanagement tools available to the Department andlandowners.

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