The bird was blamed for the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and landed on the cover of Time magazine.
Despite federal efforts to protect it, the spotted owl continues to decline. A key reason is the barred owl, a larger, more aggressive East Coast cousin that has displaced spotted owls through much of their historic range.
Just how many barred owls would be killed and where remains undecided, although officials said hundreds of birds are likely to be killed with shotguns. The plan also calls for non-lethal removal of the barred owls, by capturing them and relocating them or placing in them in permanent captivity.
"We can't ignore the mounting evidence that competition from barred owls is a major factor in the spotted owl's decline, and we have a clear obligation to do all we can to prevent the spotted owl's extinction and help it rebound," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
Eric Forsman, a U.S. Forest Service scientist whose work in the 1970s showed how the decline in spotted owls was tied to logging old-growth forests, was skeptical that killing barred owls would make a difference.
"There are not enough shotguns," he said. "It would be just about like trying to wipe out coyotes."
The Interior Department will accept public comments on the plan for 90 days.
Barnard reported from Grants Pass, Ore.
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