The burrowing owl (pdf) is a species broadly distributed in the western United States that also occupies other parts of the continental United States as well as Central and South America. The species is resident in much of the State of California. Populations of the species have declined in certain areas of the State over time, but the population in Imperial County increased with the expansion of agriculture in the region over the past century. It was recently reported that the Imperial County population, which was as high as 5600 pairs in the past decade, totaled less than 4900 pairs in 2007 and 3600 pairs in 2008.
The burrowing owl is classified as a species of special concern by the California Department of Fish and Game. In addition, it is subject to protect under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In 2003, a number of environmental groups filed a petition (pdf) to list the species under the California Endangered Species Act, but the Fish and Game Commission declined to list the species. The burrowing owl is a covered species under a number of regional habitat conservation plans in southern California including the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program Plan (pdf) and the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.