The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for administering and implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to conserve and recover federally listed species of plants and animals native to the United States and its territories. It also enforces fish and wildlife laws, protects and recovers threatened and endangered species, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores vital wildlife habitat and assists other governments with conservation efforts.
Ecological Services staff use the best available science and sound managerial techniques to further the Service's mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. In doing this, staff integrate their Federal authorities with social, political, and economic realities to ensure sound resource decisions while recognizing the importance of a partnership approach addressing the needs of stakeholders, since the vast majority of fish and wildlife habitat is in private ownership. In addition, education and information dissemination are integral parts of all of our activities.
As the principal federal partner responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we take the lead in recovering and conserving our Nation's imperiled species by fostering partnerships, employing scientific excellence, and developing a workforce of conservation leaders. As we work in partnership with others, our two major goals are to: 1) Protect endangered and threatened species, and then pursue their recovery; and 2) Conserve candidate species and species-at-risk so that listing under the ESA is not necessary. These goals are achieved through the following activities:
The ESA directs all Federal agencies to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and, in consultation with the Service, to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. This applies to management of Federal lands as well as other Federal actions that may affect listed species, such as Federal approval of private activities through the issuance of Federal permits, licenses, or other actions.
Habitat Conservation Plans
To obtain a permit for conducting activities that might incidentally harm endangered or threatened wildlife, private landowners, corporations, State or local governments, Tribes or other non-Federal landowners need to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), designed to offset any harmful effects the proposed activity might have on the species. The Service assists applicants throughout the HCP process, allowing development to proceed consistent with conserving listed species.
Listing and Critical Habitat
Through the Listing Program, the Service determines whether to add a species to the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Listing affords a species the full range of protections available under the ESA, including prohibitions on killing, harming or otherwise "taking" a species. In some instances, listing can be avoided by the development of Candidate Conservation Agreements which may remove threats facing the candidate species.
The goal of the Endangered Species Act is the recovery of listed species to levels where protection under the Act is no longer necessary. Towards that goal, we develop and implement recovery plans that provide detailed site-specific management actions for private, Federal, and State cooperation in conserving listed species and their ecosystems.