Endangered Species

Midwest Region



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Here are some terms that you might encounter when hearing or reading about the endangered species program. Some definitions are linked to more information.


Biodiversity - The variety of life and its processes, including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.


Biological assessment - A document prepared for the Section 7 process to determine whether a proposed major construction activity under the authority of a Federal action agency is likely to adversely affect listed species, proposed species, or designated critical habitat.


Biological opinion - A document that is the product of formal consultation, stating the opinion of the Service on whether or not a Federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.


Candidate species - Plants and animals that have been studied and the Service has concluded that they should be proposed for addition to the Federal endangered and threatened species list. These species have formerly been referred to as category 1 candidate species. From the February 28, 1996 Federal Register, page 7597: "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."


Category 1 candidate species - A term no longer in use, having been replaced by the term "candidate species" which uses the same definition.


Category 2 candidate species - A term no longer in use. Previously referred to species for which the Service had some indication that listing as threatened or endangered might be warranted, but there were insufficient data available to justify a proposal to list them.


Category 3 candidate species - A term no longer in use. Previously referred to species which once were category 1 or 2 candidate species, but for which subsequent data indicated that listing as threatened or endangered was not appropriate.


CITES - The 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, restricting international commerce between participating nations for plant and animal species believed to be harmed by trade.


Common name - The nonscientific name of an animal or plant most widely used and accepted by the scientific community.


Conference - The consultation process required for Federal actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in the destruction of adverse modification of proposed critical habitat.


Conserve - Carrying out actions to improve the health of a species so it no longer needs to be listed as threatened or endangered.


Conservation - From section 3(3) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The terms "conserve," "conserving," and "conservation" mean to use and the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided under this Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transportation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking."


Consultation - All Federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (or National Marine Fisheries Service) when any activity permitted, funded, or conducted by that agency may affect a listed species or designated critical habitat, or is likely to jeopardize proposed species or adversely modify proposed critical habitat. There are two stages of consultation: informal and formal.


Critical habitat (this link goes to a PDF fact sheet) - Specific geographic areas, whether occupied by listed species or not, that are determined to be essential for the conservation and management of listed species, and that have been formally described in the Federal Register.


Delist - The process of removing an animal or plant from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.


Distinct population segment - If it satisfies the criteria specified in the February 7, 1996, Federal Register, pages 4722-4725, a portion of a vertebrate (i.e., animals with a backbone) species or subspecies can be listed. The criteria require it to be readily separable from the rest of its species and to be biologically and ecologically significant. Such a portion of a species or subspecies is called a distinct population segment.


Ecosystem - Dynamic and interrelating complex of plant and animal communities and their associated nonliving (e.g. physical and chemical) environment.


Ecosystem Approach - Protecting or restoring the function, structure, and species composition of an ecosystem, recognizing that all components are interrelated.


Endangered - The classification provided to an animal or plant in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended - Federal legislation intended to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend may be conserved, and provide programs for the conservation of those species, thus preventing extinction of native plants and animals.


Endangered species permit - A document issued by the Service under authority of Section 10 allowing an action otherwise prohibited under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act.


Endemic species - A species native and confined to a certain region; having comparatively restricted distribution.


Extinct species - A species no longer in existence.


Extirpated species - A species no longer surviving in regions that were once part of their range.


Federal action agency - Any department or agency of the United States proposing to authorize, fund, or carry out an action under existing authorities.


Formal consultation - The consultation process conducted when a Federal agency determines its action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, and is used to determine whether the proposed action may jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify critical habitat. This determination is stated in the Service's biological opinion.


Habitat - The location where a particular taxon of plant or animal lives and its surroundings (both living and nonliving) and includes the presence of a group of particular environmental conditions surrounding an organism including air, water, soil, mineral elements, moisture, temperature, and topography.


Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) - A plan which outlines ways of maintaining, enhancing, and protecting a given habitat type needed to protect species. The plan usually includes measures to minimize impacts, and might include provisions for permanently protecting land, restoring habitat, and relocating plants or animals to another area. An HCP is required before an incidental take permit may be issued.


Harm - An act which actually kills or injures wildlife. Such acts may include significant habitat modification or degradation when it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding, or sheltering.


Historic range - Those geographic areas the species was known or believed to occupy in the past.


Implementation schedule - An outline of actions, with responsible parties, estimated costs and timeframes, for meeting the recovery objectives described in the species recovery plan.


Incidental take - Take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity.


Incidental take permit - A permit issued under Section 10 of the Federal Endangered Species Act to private parties undertaking otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take of an endangered or threatened species. Application for an incidental take permit is subject to certain requirements, including preparation by the permit applicant of a conservation plan, generally known as a "Habitat Conservation Plan" or "HCP."


Incidental take statement - A term referring to that part of a biological opinion that exempts incidental take of a listed species from the Section 9 prohibitions.


Informal consultation - Informal consultation precedes formal consultation and includes any form of communication between the Federal action agency, applicant, or designated non Federal representative and the Service to determine if listed species may occur in the action area and what the effects of the action may be to such species. This phase is often used to develop project modifications or alternatives to avoid adverse effects to listed species, which would then preclude the need for formal consultation.


Jeopardy biological opinion - A Service Section 7 biological opinion that determines that a Federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.


Lead region - The Fish and Wildlife Service Region that is responsible for coordinating all actions taken to study, propose, list, conserve, and delist a species.


Lead office - The field office that has been given the responsibility for coordinating all or most actions taken to study, propose, list, conserve, and delist a species within the boundaries of Region 3. If Region 3 is the lead region for a particular species, the lead office has these responsibilities over the entire range of that species.


Listed species - A species, subspecies, or distinct vertebrate population segment that has been added to the Federal lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants as they appear in sections 17.11 and 17.12 of Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12).


Listing - The formal process through which the Service adds species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.


Listing priority - A number from 1 to 12 indicating the relative urgency for listing plants or animals as threatened or endangered. The criteria used to assign this number reflect the magnitude and immediacy of threat to the species, as well as the relative distinctiveness or isolation of the genetic material they possess. This latter criterion is applied by giving a higher priority number to species which are the only remaining species in their genus, and a lower priority number to subspecies and varieties. These listing priorities are described in detail in the Federal Register on September 21, 1983, as pages 43098-43105.


No jeopardy biological opinion - A Service Section 7 biological opinion that determines that a Federal action is not likely to jeopardize the existence of a listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.


Participation plan - A plan describing the means to carry out one or more tasks outlined in the Implementation Schedule of a species recovery plan, minimizing the socioeconomic impacts of that action.


Petition (Listing) - A formal request, with the support of adequate biological data, suggesting that a species, with the support of adequate biological data, be listed, reclassified, or delisted, or that critical habitat be revised for a listed species. See also Region 3 Guidance for Potential Petitioners


Propose - The formal process of publishing a proposed Federal regulation in the Federal Register and establishing a comment period for public input into the decision-making process. Plants and animals must be proposed for listing as threatened or endangered species, and the resulting public comments must be analyzed, before the Service can make a final decision.


Proposed species - Any species of fish, wildlife, or plant that is proposed in the Federal Register to be listed under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act.


Range - The geographic area a species is known or believed to occupy.


Reauthorization - A term referring to periodic action taken by Congress to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act. By reauthorizing an act, Congress extends it and may also amend it.


Reclassify - The process of changing a species' official threatened or endangered classification.


Recovery - The process by which the decline of an endangered or threatened species is arrested or reversed, or threats to its survival neutralized so that its long-term survival in nature can be ensured.


Recovery outline - The first Service recovery document provided for a listed species. While very brief, the document serves to direct recovery efforts pending the completion of the species' recovery plan.


Recovery permit - Permits issued under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Endangered Species Act for scientific research and other activities benefitting the recovery of Federally listed species.


Recovery plan - A document drafted by the Service or other knowledgeable individual or group, that serves as a guide for activities to be undertaken by Federal, State, or private entities in helping to recover and conserve endangered or threatened species.


Recovery priority - A number, ranging from a high of 1C to a low of 18, whereby priorities to listed species and recovery tasks are assigned. The criteria on which the recovery priority number is based are degree of threat, recovery potential, taxonomic distinctiveness, and presence of an actual or imminent conflict between the species and development activities.


Region 3 - The geographic unit of the Service that is composed of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.


Scientific name - A formal, Latinized name applied to a taxonomic group of animals or plants. A species' scientific name is a two-part combination consisting of the name of the genus, followed by a species name. For example, the scientific name of gray bat is Myotis grisescens. If a species has been further divided into subspecies, a third part is added to the scientific name. The Ozark big-eared bat is Plecotus townsendii ingens. "Ingens" distinguishes the Ozark subspecies from other subspecies of the big-eared bat.


Scientific take permit - A type of recovery permit authorized under Section 10 allowing for research pertaining to species recovery such as taking blood samples from a peregrine falcon for genetic analysis, or conducting surveys of freshwater mussel beds to determine species status and distribution.


Section 4 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that deals with listing and recovery of species, and designation of critical habitat.


Section 4(d) rule - A special regulation developed by the Service under authority of Section 4(d) modifying the normal protective regulations for a particular threatened species when it is determined that such a rule is necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of that species.


Section 6 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that authorizes the Service to provide financial assistance to States through cooperative agreements supporting the conservation of endangered and threatened species.


Section 7 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that requires all Federal agencies, in "consultation" with the Service, to insure that their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.


Section 9 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that deals with prohibited actions, including the import and export, take, possession of illegally taken species, transport, or sale of endangered or threatened species.


Section 10 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that lays out the guidelines under which a permit may be issued to authorize activities prohibited by Section 9, such as take of endangered or threatened species.


Species - From Section 3(15) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The term 'species' includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature." A population of individuals that are more or less alike, and that are able to breed and produce fertile offspring under natural conditions.


Species of Concern - "Species of concern" is an informal term that refers to those species which Region 3 believes might be in need of concentrated conservation actions. Such conservation actions vary depending on the health of the populations and degree and types of threats. At one extreme, there may only need to be periodic monitoring of populations and threats to the species and its habitat. At the other extreme, a species may need to be listed as a Federal threatened or endangered species. Species of concern receive no legal protection and the use of the term does not necessarily mean that the species will eventually be proposed for listing as a threatened or endangered species.


Take - From Section 3(18) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The term 'take' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."


Threatened - The term “threatened species” means any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range - - as defined in the Endangered Species Act.



Midwest Endangered Species Home


Last updated: April 1, 2014