by Michael Doyle

GREENWIRE | With a rhetorical nod toward Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” a federal appeals court has rejected environmentalists’ challenge to a Fish and Wildlife Service plan to kill thousands of barred owls in order to protect threatened northern spotted owls.

The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a trial court’s decision siding with the federal agency that’s struggled for years with its Endangered Species Act obligations toward the northern spotted owl.

“For the northern spotted owl, it has been the worst of times: It remains a threatened species, and its population continues to dwindle in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California,” Judge Kenneth Lee wrote. “But it has been the best of times for the barred owl.”

In what he explicitly called a ”tale of two owls,” Lee noted that ”its abundant population burgeoning, the barred owl has expanded westward and encroached on the spotted owl’s habitat” and that “barred owls have even been spotted attacking their brethren bird.”

A Trump administration appointee, Lee was joined on the opinion issued Friday by Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, a Clinton administration appointee, and Judge Michael Kennelly, a district court judge also appointed by Clinton who joined the appellate panel for the case.

“We are certainly disappointed in the opinion and are concerned about the precedent it may set for wildlife management,” Jennifer Best, legal director of the Friends of Animals’ wildlife law program, told E&E News today.

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