The Department of Fish and Wildlife (FWS) has exterminated 450 barred owls since 2013 as part of an experimental program meant to aid in the recovery of the northern spotted owl.
The environmental group Friends of Animals filed a federal complaint about the program Friday, alleging the FWS should have issued an environmental impact statement when the agency began the program. The statement outlines the program’s affects on the environment and suggests ways to mitigate them, according to the Courthouse News Service.
The FWS recognized the barred owl as a “rapid and severe threat” to the spotted owl in 2011, according to court documents. The agency issued permits in 2013 mandating the removal of 3,600 barred owls, by death or deportation, from old growth forests in Oregon and Washington.
The FWS hoped that by removing barred owls that are encroaching on spotted owl habitat and taking it over, northern spotted owl numbers would begin to improve.
Two animal rights groups sued the FWS a year later in 2014, alleging the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act by killing barred owls. A district judge threw out the case, however, saying that the FWS could authorize a recovery plan that resulted in killing members of another non-threatened species, according to Capital Press.
The FWS has not stated whether the experimental program has been effective in aiding spotted owl recovery.
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