Center for Biological Diversity, File, Associated Press
FILE - A Mexican spotted owl is shown in this undated file photo provided by the Center for Biological Diversity. A federal judge has put a stop to forest thinning and maintenance projects in Arizona and New Mexico that environmentalists contend could harm the Mexican spotted owl, according to a report Friday Jan. 6, 2012.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A federal court has put a stop to three tree-cutting projects in Arizona and New Mexico that environmentalists say could harm the Mexican spotted owl.

WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Forest Service in 2010, claiming the agency ignored its responsibility to track the owl's numbers in the two states.

A federal judge on Thursday granted a request from WildEarth Guardians to halt the projects until the Forest Service consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how the owls could be impacted.

Forest Service spokeswoman Cathie Schmidlin said Friday that the agency is contacting contractors and utilities to let them know of the court's decision. The projects are in southern New Mexico and on a handful of Arizona forests.

The Mexican spotted owl was listed as threatened in 1993.