All Federal agencies are required to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the ESA. Section 7 of the ESA ("Interagency Cooperation") is the mechanism by which Federal agencies ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species or adversely modify critical habitat. Under this section, all Federal agencies also have a responsibility to carry out programs for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. Private individuals are affected by section 7 only when there is a federal nexus, e.g., they are receiving a Federal permit or funding.
To learn more, download the Consultations fact sheet or watch a Section 7 Consultation Slideshow. For a map and more information on endangered species in southcentral and southwestern Alaska, please see our consultation map and additional information.
How does the Consultation process work?
Under Section 7, Federal agencies must consult with the USFWS when any action the agency carries out, funds, or permits may affect a listed endangered or threatened species. This process usually begins as an “informal” consultation. Namely, the Federal agency, in the early stages of project planning, requests informal consultation with the USFWS. Discussions include which listed species occur in the proposed action area, and what effect the proposed action may have on those species.
If the Federal agency, after discussions with the USFWS, determines that the proposed action is not likely to affect any listed species in the project area, and if the USFWS concurs, the informal consultation is complete and the proposed project moves ahead. If it appears that the agency’s action may affect a listed species, that agency may then prepare a biological assessment to assist in determining the impact of the project on the species.
When a Federal agency determines, through a biological assessment or other review, that its action is likely to adversely affect a listed species or its critical habitat, it submits a request for formal consultation to the USFWS. During formal consultation, the USFWS and the action agency share information about the proposed project and the species and critical habitat(s) likely to be affected. We have up to 90 days once we receive all pertinent information to determine whether the proposed activity will jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or destroy/adversely modify its critical habitat. However, this period may be extended for complex, large-scale projects. We then have 45 days after completion of formal consultation to write the biological opinion. To see recent biological opinions written for projects in Alaska click here.
In making a determination on whether an action will jeopardize the species existence, the Service begins by looking at the current status of the species, or baseline. Added to the baseline are the various effects – direct, indirect, interrelated, and interdependent – of the proposed Federal action. The Service also examines the cumulative effects of other non-Federal actions that may occur in the action area, including state, tribal, local, or private activities that are reasonably certain to occur in the project area.
What does “jeopardize” mean?
Under the ESA, “to jeopardize” means to engage in an action that reasonably would be expected, directly or indirectly, to reduce appreciably the likelihood of both the survival and recovery of a listed species in the wild by reducing the reproduction, numbers, or distribution of that species.
Our priority is to make implementation of the ESA less complex, less contentious, and more effective!