The USFWS proposes killing or removing 257 to 8,960 barred owls at up to 11 experimental sites, according to the agency's environmental impact statement. That would be less than half of a percent of the North American population.
"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," Dan Ashe, director of the USFWS, said in a press release.
Habitat destruction is a major threat to the spotted owl as well. Protecting and restoring old growth forests is also necessary to protect the owl.
"You can't use the barred owl as a scapegoat," Shawn Cantrell, the Seattle Audubon Society's executive director, told CNN.
"The barred owl has grown as a challenge in the last decade, so we need to figure out what is the level of challenge that the barred owl poses, and what are the appropriate actions we might take concurrent with other things, such as restoring the habitat of the northern spotted owls," Cantrell said.