1990: Interagency Scientific Committee (ISC) Report is Published
The ISC was established under the authority of an interagency agreement in August of 1988, between the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the FWS, and the BLM. The purpose of the committee was to address the conservation of the northern spotted owl, and to develop a scientifically credible conservation strategy for it.
The group concluded that the owl was “imperiled over significant portions of its range because of continuing losses of habitat from logging and natural disturbances. Current management strategies are inadequate to ensure its viability.. Delay in implementing a conservation strategy cannot be justified on the basis of inadequate knowledge.”
The ISC reviewed all available studies dealing with spotted owl habitat and their abundance in relation to habitat. They estimated that spotted owl habitat has been reduced by at least 60% since 1800. The group explained that many aspects “must be considered when evaluating the conservation strategy," including such factors as water quality, fisheries, soils, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. The report concludes that "the issue is more complex than spotted owls and the timber supply – it always has been.”
The ISC proposed a 2-part conservation strategy. “In the first stage, steps are taken to ensure that adequate amounts and distribution of habitat are protected to ensure the owl’s long-term survival. The second stage calls for research and monitoring to test the adequacy of the strategy and to seek ways to produce and sustain suitable owl habitat in managed forests.”
Explained in its own words, the ISC strategy “largely abandons the current and, we believe, flawed system... in favor of protecting larger blocks of habitat -- which we term Habitat Conservation Areas or HCAs." Their plan incorporated a network of HCAs necessary to ensure a viable, well distributed population of owls. Maximum distances were set between each HCA to ensure that owls could move from one HCA to another. Logging was supposed to be banned within all HCAs.
Northern Spotted Owl: Interagency Scientific Committee Information, "Inter-Agency Scientific Committee on Spotted Owl, Summary of Report, 4 April 1990, Presented by Jack Ward Thomas."