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Proposal In Owl Case May Allow For Cutting Of U.S. Capitol Holiday Tree

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The fate of the official Christmas tree to be displayed outside the U.S. Capitol building over the holidays is now in the hands of a federal judge.

Environmentalists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an agreement Monday in a case centered on protection of habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl--a threatened bird species that could prevent the Christmas Tree from being harvested from a National Forest in New Mexico.

The agreement allows personal Christmas tree-cutting permits, prescribed fires with stipulations and commercial firewood gathering in certain areas where the Mexican Spotted Owls live.

A September order drew criticism for imposing a tree-cutting ban that spanned five national forests in New Mexico and one in Arizona.

The judge later narrowed the order to allow personal firewood permits, but other timber management activities remain sidelined.

It’s not clear whether the judge will make a ruling in the case.

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