FWS National Contingency Plan


As part of the Area Contingency Planning process, Section 300.210(c)(4)(i) of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) requires Area Committees to incorporate into each ACP a detailed annex containing a Fish and Wildlife and Sensitive Environments Plan.
The annex shall be prepared in consultation with the USFWS and NOAA and other interested natural resource management agencies and parties. (For examples of these plans, links to currently available area Contingency Plans are found at .) The NCP requires that the annex include the following information and procedures:

Prioritize Sensitivities: Identify and establish priorities for fish and wildlife resources and their habitats and other important sensitive areas requiring protection from any direct or indirect effects from discharges that may occur. These effects include, but are not limited to, any seasonal or historical use, as well as all critical, special, significant, or otherwise designated protected areas.

Process to Identify Resources-At-Risk: Provide a mechanism to be used during a spill response for timely identification of protection priorities of those fish and wildlife resources and habitats and sensitive environmental areas that may be threatened or injured by a discharge. These include as appropriate, not only marine and freshwater species, habitats, and their food sources, but also terrestrial wildlife and their habitats that may be affected directly by onshore oil or indirectly by oil-related factors, such as loss or contamination of forage. The mechanism shall also provide for expeditious evaluation and appropriate consultations on the effects to fish and wildlife, their habitat, and other sensitive environments from the application of chemical countermeasures or other alternative countermeasures.

Analysis of Environmental Effects: Identify potential environmental effects on fish and wildlife, their habitat, and other sensitive environments resulting from removal actions or countermeasures, including the option of no removal. Based on this evaluation of potential environmental effects, the annex should establish priorities for application of countermeasure and removal actions to habitats within the geographic region of the ACP. The annex should establish methods to minimize the identified effects on fish and wildlife because of response activities, including, but not limited to: Disturbance of sensitive areas and habitats; illegal or inadvertent taking or disturbance of fish and wildlife or specimens by response personnel; and fish and wildlife, their habitat, and environmentally sensitive areas coming in contact with various cleaning or bioremediation agents. Furthermore, the annex should identify the areas where the movement of oiled debris may pose a risk to resident, transient, or migratory fish and wildlife, and other sensitive environments and should discuss measures to be considered for removing such oiled debris in a timely fashion to reduce such risk.

Pre-Approval: Provide for pre-approval of application of specific countermeasures or removal actions that, if expeditiously applied, will minimize adverse spill-induced impacts to fish and wildlife resources, their habitat, and other sensitive environments.

Monitoring: Provide monitoring plan(s) to evaluate the effectiveness of different countermeasures or removal actions in protecting the environment. Monitoring should include “set-aside'' or “control'' areas, where no mitigative actions are taken.

Contracted Wildlife Response Organizations: Identify and plan for the acquisition and utilization of necessary response capabilities for protection, rescue, and rehabilitation of fish and wildlife resources. This may include appropriately permitted private organizations and individuals with appropriate expertise and experience. The suitable organizations should be identified in cooperation with natural resource law enforcement agencies. Such capabilities shall include, but not be limited to, identification of facilities and equipment necessary for deterring sensitive fish and wildlife from entering oiled areas, and for capturing, holding, cleaning, and releasing injured wildlife. Plans for the provision of such capabilities shall ensure that there is no interference with other OSC removal operations. (See Appendices D, E, and L)

Agency Wildlife Response Contacts & Guidelines: Identify appropriate federal and state agency contacts and alternates responsible for coordination of fish and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and protection of sensitive environments; identify and provide for required fish and wildlife handling and rehabilitation permits necessary under federal and state laws; and provide guidance on the implementation of law enforcement requirements included under current federal and state laws and corresponding regulations. Requirements include, but are not limited to procedures regarding the capture, transport, rehabilitation, and release of wildlife exposed to or threatened by oil, and disposal of contaminated carcasses of wildlife. For more details, see Appendix D, “Best Practices for Migratory Bird Care During Spill Response.”

Training: Identify and secure the means for providing, if needed, the minimum required OSHA and EPA training for volunteers, including those who assist with injured wildlife.

Plan Evaluation: Define the requirements for evaluating the compatibility between this annex and non-federal response plans (including those of vessels, facilities, and pipelines) on issues affecting fish and wildlife, their habitat, and sensitive environments.


The Service’s fish and wildlife response plans (Appendix L) address fish and wildlife that are currently managed by the Service. As described above, the NCP has specific fish and wildlife and sensitive environment requirements that are designed to address the entire natural resource response effort. Using this guidance, the Service fish and wildlife response plans must be incorporated into the ACP’s, and specifically in the ACP’s “Fish and Wildlife and Sensitive Environment Annex.” The components of the Service fish and wildlife response plans provide the information needed to incorporate Service response goals into the ACP. (see for links to currently available Area Contingency Plans, which include examples of such fish and wildlife plans.)

In developing specific response plans, veterinary standards were applied, zoological parks and aquariums were consulted regarding contemporary husbandry technology, historical spill case studies were evaluated, and applicable scientific literature was reviewed to determine the most feasible response options for each taxonomic group or species. In cases where information is currently unavailable, veterinarians and scientists with the most experience were consulted to develop a best professional opinion for response options. As new information becomes available from future spill responses, advances in veterinary medicine, and animal husbandry, these data will be incorporated into future plan revisions.

As per NCP requirements, the Service has developed fish and wildlife response plans to provide guidance for Service personnel for pre-spill response planning and for evaluating the spill response criteria that would justify the initiation of fish and wildlife response efforts. Fish and wildlife response plans contain: (1) a presentation and discussion of the countermeasures (response strategies) that may be used to protect wildlife during a spill incident; and (2) an analysis of the benefits or impacts of those strategies for the species or taxonomic group for which the plan will apply.

Basically, a fish and wildlife response plan should be able to identify the risk, identify the resources at risk, and explore the available response options. When developing a fish and wildlife response plan, consideration should be given to the following:

• Fish and wildlife species present in the potential spill zone;

• Spill risks to those species present;

• Vulnerabilities of the wildlife or sensitive environments;

• Feasibility of the various response options; and

• Establishment of response priorities.

Fish and wildlife response plan format:

The Service plans follow a basic format to provide the best available information in a nationally consistent manner. The plan should be developed in two parts: Part I: General Considerations; and Part II: General Response Options. Discussions within these two parts should include the following:

General Considerations: Whether a plan is developed to address a single specific species or a large taxonomic group, this section of the plan should discuss the:

• Service’s authority to develop plans and manage the resource/species;

• Current population, distribution, and life history summary;

• Resource/species’ susceptibility to oil contamination;

• Training needs of response personnel working with the resource/species.

General Response Strategies: All applicable response strategies are discussed and analyzed in detail. Response strategies, as presented briefly in Chapter 5, should be developed to minimize the adverse effects to the resources/species subject to the plan.
Response activities should be designed and employed in a manner that will ensure the prevention of:

• Unnecessary or illegal disturbance to threatened and endangered species;

• Unnecessary or illegal disturbance to sensitive species and environments such as fishery concentration areas, sea turtle nesting sites, nesting raptors, seabird rookeries, and marine mammal haulouts and pupping areas;

• Potential injury or disturbance of fish and wildlife by spill response personnel;

• Illegal collection of fish and wildlife parts by spill response personnel; and

• Fish and wildlife contact with cleaning agents, hot water washing, and biological or chemical substances used for shoreline treatment or oil dispersion.

The format under response strategies should outline the three response categories and identify and analyze applicable response options within each category as follows:

Primary Response

o Physical and chemical countermeasures

o Oiled carcass collection

o Prevention of invasive species

Secondary Response

o Wildlife deterrent options

o Preemptive capture

Tertiary Response

o Wildlife capture, treatment, & rehabilitation


Facility response plans are required for all Service structures and fuel storage sources. These plans are prepared in accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plans (SPCC Plan; see 40 CFR 112). However, the refuge also needs to be addressed as a sensitive environment through the development of a site-specific sensitive area plan or Refuge Response Plan. The Refuge Response Plan would evaluate response actions for spills on lands or facilities under FWS management or control or those threatening National Wildlife Refuge lands and resources. Steps discussed in the NCP guidelines above must be addressed to ensure that response efforts minimize the injuries that occur on the affected Refuge lands. The Refuge Response Plan would then be incorporated into the ACP within the Sensitive Environments Annex.

The outline and format of the Refuge Response Plan would be similar to that presented above for resource/species response plans and should address the following:

• Identify the risks including potential events and products

• Identify sensitive areas and resources at risk

• Present the best response options for the habitat and discuss their feasibility

• Identify response equipment and resources required to deploy the equipment

• Identify access points and exclusion zone

A more detailed discussion of SPCC Plans for Refuges is in draft and will be included as an appendix to the Oil and Gas Handbook that is in preparation by the Division of Refuges (April, 2005).

Last updated: February 14, 2013