Species of the Year

Golden Gate

National Recreation Area's


Species of the Year

2016: The Year of the Northern Spotted Owl and Coast Redwood Tree!

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s (GGNRA) far-reaching boundaries are home to more species that are listed by the federal government as threatened or endangered than any other national park site in the continental United States. Each year the GGNRA is featuring one of these special plants and animals through educational programs, events, restoration activities, and a variety of materials for park visitors of all ages.

The Species of the Year for 2016 are the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and the coast redwood tree!

Federally threatened Northern Spotted Owl populations continue to decline rangewide as a result of habitat loss. Competition with other non-native species such as the larger, more aggressive Barred Owl has become the other greatest threat to the species. Northern Spotted Owls occupy evergreen forests, including coast redwood forests, in Point Reyes National Seashore, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Muir Woods National Monument.

Coast redwoods are earth's tallest trees, capable of reaching heights of more than 320 feet. They are also among the oldest trees in the world. Individuals can live to be more than 2,000 years old, although most forests today are much younger. Only 5% of old-growth coast redwoods remain today, largely as a result of the explosion of commercial logging that accompanied the California Gold Rush. Climate change, unsustainable land use and development practices, and non-native diseases are among the present day threats to California's spectacular coast redwood forests. 


Research projects related to both coast redwood forests and Northern Spotted Owls take place in Golden Gate. Coast redwoods claimed the spotlight recently when a research team scaled a coast redwood in Muir Woods for the first time  to study life in the canopy as a part of the National Park Service and National Geographic BioBlitz in March, 2014.

Northern Spotted Owls are monitored annually by the National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring Program to better understand their distribution and reproductive success. Barred Owls in Marin County are also being tracked to learn more about their movements and the threat that they pose to the area's Northern Spotted Owls. In addition, data on Northern Spotted Owl diets is being collected to determine the importance of various prey species during the breeding season. Details can be found in the most recent Northern Spotted Owl monitoring report.



Get Involved

Visit ancient, towering coast redwood forests, and/or search for owls:

Experience redwood forests through local and regional events:
Participate in research as a citizen scientist: