Guidance for Conducting Status
Assessments for Taxa which are Under Consideration for Listing as Threatened or Endangered Species
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.
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:
information is currently available to justify a listing proposal;
therefore, the Service can give the taxon Candidate status and assign
a listing priority number, with Director's concurrence;
information currently exists to determine the taxon does not warrant
a listing proposal due to extinction, greater abundance than previous
realized, threats of lesser magnitude or immediacy than previously
believed, or taxonomic questions: thus, the Service should remove
the taxon from active consideration for listing;
data gaps exist and prevent the reaching of one of the above conclusions;
therefore, the data gaps should be described, and optimal time frames
for filling the gaps should be identified.
of the Status Assessment Process
assessments are primarily reviews and summaries of published and unpublished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.
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
assessment should include the entire range of the taxon.
of the Status Assessment Process
1) a status assessment report (SAR), with separate appendices
addresses, phone numbers, and affiliations of individuals contacted
b) site locations, preferably shown on a map with a useful scale;
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
and Format Guidelines
Include in the Status Assessment Report:
Page - Include the common and scientific name, the geographic area
covered, the author's name and office address, and the date of completion.
- This paragraph should be included near the front of all status assessment
reports that are done, or contracted, by Region 3 for species having
the potential for being listed as threatened or endangered:
document is a compilation of biological data and a description of
past, present, and likely future threats to [species common &
scientific name]. It does not represent a decision by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service (Service) on whether this taxon should be designated
as a candidate species for listing as threatened or endangered under
the Federal Endangered Species Act. That decision will be made by
the Service after reviewing this document; other relevant biological
and threat data not included herein; and all relevant laws, regulations,
and policies. The result of the decision will be posted on the Service's
Region 3 Web site (refer to: http://midwest.fws.gov/endangered/lists/concern.html).
If designated as a candidate species, the taxon will subsequently
be added to the Service's candidate species list that is periodically
published in the Federal Register and posted on the World Wide Web
(refer to: http://endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html). Even if the
taxon does not warrant candidate status it should benefit from the
conservation recommendations that are contained in this document.
Name (and other common names)
Name used in Federal Register (and other scientific names)
or unsettled taxonomic issues - Provide details, as taxonomic problems
may preclude listing.
description of the taxon - In addition to the technical description
of the taxon, provide a summary of the key characteristics that a
biologist (not necessarily a specialist in this taxon) can use to
identify individuals of the taxon. A drawing or photo is beneficial.
of (a) biology and natural history and (b) habitat requirements of
the taxon - Include such things as territory size, site fidelity,
reproduction, mortality, longevity, and seasonal habitat usage.
and historical range - Include significant breeding, migration, and
and historical population and productivity estimates & trends,
broken out by state and province, and for individual local populations,
if possible. It is important to distinguish between current (say within
the last 10 years) and historical trends; historical trends provide
background and perspective, while current trends provide the evidence
that listing is warranted or unwarranted. The "ideal" is
to describe the current trend (and threats, see below) for each known
population unit across the entire range; get as close to the ideal
as the data allow.
of status and threats, organized by the five listing factors shown
below. Explain the links between the threats and the taxon's decline;
use specific examples. For past and on-going threats, document the
extent of declines at specific locations and provide evidence of the
causes. For anticipated future threats, assess the likelihood that
a site or population will actually be affected, and describe the evidence
leading to that conclusion. Use wording that can be directly incorporated
into a listing proposal. As with population trends, the recent and
on-going threats are more germane to a listing decision than are past
or anticipated future threats.
A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment
of its habitat or range.
B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational
C. Disease or predation.
D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
protective status under state/provincial/tribal/Federal laws and regulations.
of land ownership and existing habitat protection for each population.
This summary can be restricted to the most important populations if
there are many. If landowners are identified, the addresses and phone
numbers of private owners should only appear in an appendix so they
can be easily removed from the main document.
and current (and anticipated) conservation activities undertaken for
the benefit of the species or its habitat. What has been (is expected
to be) the result?
actions (species, habitat, or people management) needed...
a. to preclude the need for listing as endangered or threatened;
b. to bring about recovery, if listed.
section should contain sufficiently detailed and comprehensive management
recommendations so that they can be promptly undertaken if listing
is not recommended or not immediately pursued due to low listing priority.
Alternatively, they can become the basis for a recovery outline if
the taxon is listed. The actions should be prioritized.
surveys, and monitoring needed...
to complete the status assessment and allow for an informed listing
decision; include recommendations on surveying and monitoring protocols,
to bring about recovery, if listed.
needs should be prioritized.
of references used in completing the status assessment, including
personal communications and "gray literature"
and office of preparer(s) and the date prepared
of primary individuals contacted, including addresses and phone/fax
numbers. Add this list as an appendix so it readily can be removed
to comply with the Privacy Act in the event the status assessment
is distributed outside the Service.
specific location information should be attached as a separate appendix
so this information can be easily removed if the document is distributed
outside of the Service. The inclusion of maps is strongly encouraged.
of the relevant parts of all important references should be provided.
Status Assessment Report Summary:
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.
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.
the Service will Provide
all relevant information or data currently on file for the subject
contact information for the lead Field office, other field
offices within the species range, and other known species or taxon
Commonly Used Terms
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.
1 Candidate Species (obsolete term) - the term was previously
applied to those species which are now called "candidate species";
see above definition.
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.
- 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
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.
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