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Guidance for Conducting Status Assessments for Taxa which are Under Consideration for Listing as Threatened or Endangered
Purpose of This Guidance
We are in an era of continuing and increasing pressure on our Nation's native plant and animal resources and the habitats upon which they depend for their existence in the wild. This push toward local extirpation and rangewide extinction is accompanied by static or even declining governmental financial resources that are available to slow the loss of biological diversity at all its levels. Efforts to review the biological status of species and the source and magnitude of the threats arrayed against them must become more efficient and effective. This guidance is intended to improve these efforts in Region 3 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) by establishing guidelines for such biological reviews, whether they are done directly by Service personnel or by other individuals under contract to the Service. In all cases this guidance should be considered to be flexible and advisory; bend it to better fit the species, the perceived urgency, and the expected use of the status assessment report.
Purpose of the Status Assessment Process
Status assessment is the process of reviewing, summarizing, and analyzing relevant and existing information on a taxon to allow the Service to arrive at one of the following conclusions:
Scope of the Status Assessment Process
Status assessments are primarily reviews and summaries of published and unpublished literature, reports, plans, and data, coupled with numerous personal communications for obtaining updated information. New field surveys and other forms of field research are not normally part of status assessments, unless they are small, short-term efforts to fill important data gaps.
The amount of information and data the Service has previously compiled varies from species to species. For most species, the Service will have compiled few, if any, relevant pieces of literature on the subject species. Therefore, existing literature will need to be gathered as part of the status assessment process.
The status assessment should include the entire range of the taxon.
Products of the Status Assessment Process
1) a status assessment report (SAR), with separate appendices for
2) a summary of the assessment report, written in lay terms for use in outreach activities
(including posting on the Web), generally from one to three pages in
General Status Assessment Procedure
Collect, review, and synthesize the existing published and unpublished material on the taxon. Contacts should be made with other Federal agencies, other Service offices and regions, state nongame and Heritage programs, tribal conservation agencies, conservation organizations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy), researchers, and other knowledgeable individuals to obtain a comprehensive and current picture of the taxon. Foreign data must be included for plants and invertebrate species, and is highly recommended for vertebrates, as well. Arrangements should be made with these sources to obtain new data that subsequently become available.
Because the Service can list Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) of vertebrate taxa, the SAR author should consider whether the SAR should assess the conservation status and threats to such geographically delimited subsets of the larger taxon. If initial review of the data indicate that a DPS-level evaluation might be needed, contact the Service to discuss this further.
Draft status assessment reports should be provided to the Service for early review to ensure that all important aspects are adequately covered. The Service will provide the draft to the Regional Office Listing Coordinator, the Regional Nongame Migratory Bird Coordinator if the assessment covers an avian species, or to the Regional Fisheries Resources Team Leader for fish or freshwater mussel species.
An advanced draft of the status assessment report should be sent to the principal data contributors for review, to ensure that their data and recommendations have been correctly interpreted. They should clearly understand that they are reviewing a draft document that is not intended for further distribution.
Completed status assessment reports will become public documents. As such they should contain primarily data and data analysis, as well as recommendations for conservation management, additional research, and improving the assessment. However, recommendations concerning elevation to candidate species status, listing, and critical habitat designation should not be contained in the SAR. The decision on whether to elevate a species to candidate status is made by the Service.
Content and Format Guidelines
Include in the Status Assessment Report:
Status Assessment Report Summary:
If the SAR is longer than 8-10 pages, a summary be should prepared. SAR summaries should include a brief description of the taxon, threats, population trends, conservation/management recommendations, research/monitoring needs, as well as conservation actions that are currently underway for the taxon. Summaries should be written in language that will be understood by the general public. Limit the summary to two or three pages.
Prepare the status assessment report using WordPerfect or Word. Furnish the Service with a paper and an electronic copy (on diskette or via e-mail) of the report and the summary. If possible, provide electronic files containing a black and white drawing and a color photograph for use on the World Wide Web.
What the Service will Provide
Some Commonly Used Terms
Candidate Species - those species for which the Service has on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threat(s) to support issuance of a proposed rule to list, but issuance of the proposed rule is precluded by other listing actions.
Category 1 Candidate Species (obsolete term) - the term was previously applied to those species which are now called "candidate species"; see above definition.
Category 2 Candidate Species (obsolete term) - those species for which information in the possession of the Service indicated that proposing to list as endangered or threatened was possibly appropriate, but for which sufficient data on biological vulnerability and threat were not currently available to support proposed rules to list the species as threatened or endangered.
Listing - the process of adding a species to the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
Species - as defined in the Endangered Species Act, the term "species" also includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plant, and any distinct population segment (DPS) of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife.
Species of Concern - an informal term indicating that the Service has some degree of concern for the future well-being of the taxon, but the taxon does not receive any Endangered Species Act protection.
Status Assessment Report (SAR) (or "status report" or "status assessment") - the final written product of a review of available information on a species, focusing on the conservation needs of the species
Prepared May 30, 2001
Last updated: April 14, 2015