Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

 

 

 

 

Biological assessment / Biological evaluation contents


COVER LETTER
  • • Type of federal action (e.g., federal permit, federal funding, etc.) and letter of designation if you are the federal agency’s representative. 
  • • Project title and purpose. 
  • • Determination for each listed species and designated critical habitat:  (1) “no effect”; (2) request Service concurrence with a “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determination; or, (3) request formal consultation with the Service for a “may affect, likely to adversely affect” determination. 
  • • For a proposed species or critical habitat, determination of whether the proposed action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a proposed species or adversely modify proposed critical habitat.


PROJECT DESCRIPTION
  • • Location of the proposed action, as detailed as possible.
  • • Action area, including areas affected directly or indirectly - not just the project footprint.
  • • Detailed description of the proposed action, including secondary project features such as staging areas, access roads, power lines, drainage ponds, etc. 
  • • Construction, operation, and maintenance activities.
  • • Types of equipment to be used, when it will be used (time of day, week, year), and duration of use.
  • • Equipment features that minimize impacts, such as rubber tires, mufflers, or tailgate bumpers.
  • • Site map(s) showing area surrounding project and action area, including project site, staging areas, access routes, restoration sites, and/or compensation areas. 


SPECIES, SUITABLE HABITAT, AND CRITICAL HABITAT DESCRIPTION(S)
  • • List of threatened, endangered, and proposed species observed or expected in the action area, including seasonal or temporary use.
  • • Background on the threatened and endangered species or designated critical habitat in the project area, including range and population status, and what part of the range/population would be affected by the action.
  • • Typical habitat requirements for listed species.
  • • Habitat and/or plant communities on-site and within the project vicinity, especially those associated with any listed species in the action area, with a description of methods used to identify and classify habitats. 
  • • Methods, intensity, timing, and results of surveys for listed, proposed, or candidate species or their habitat, including limitations and how surveys or assumptions were adjusted to account for such limitations. 
  • • Survey methods must be site- and species-specific and in sufficient detail to determine absence of the species. 
  • • Background, training, and experience level of those conducting surveys.
  • • Current management actions affecting proposed action site and vicinity.  
  • • Any critical habitat present and its constituent elements - physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species.
  • • Current baseline conditions which include past and present impacts of all federal, state, or private actions and other human activities in the action area. 
  • • Past actions affecting the project area, the anticipated effects of all federal actions that have already been consulted on in the action area, and the effects of all state and/or private actions which are contemporaneous with the consultation in process.


EFFECTS OF THE PROPOSED ACTION
  • • How the proposed action will affect each threatened and endangered species, their habitat, and designated critical habitat. Effects can be positive or negative and may include habitat modification.
  • • How each species will likely respond to changes to its habitat. 
  • • Amount and distribution of effects (e.g., acres of habitat affected by basin or watershed, location and number of individuals or percent of population affected). 
  • • Measures taken to avoid or reduce adverse effects to each species. 
  • • Describe and quantify the effects to designated critical habitat.


DIRECT AND INDIRECT EFFECTS
  • • Effects of actions already affecting the action area.  Cumulative effects of past actions are part of baseline conditions against which the proposed action is assessed.
  • • The action’s direct effects on the species (e.g., immediately removal or conversion habitat, displacement animals or plants, or habitat modification include noise, chemical applications, and hydrology alterations).
  • • Effects of the action that would indirectly affect the species (e.g., effects to individuals or habitat occurring later in time).


INTERDEPENDENT AND INTERRELATED ACTIONS
  • • Effects of interdependent actions - actions that have no independent utility apart from the primary action. 
  • • Effects of interrelated actions - actions that are part of the primary action and dependent upon that primary action for their justification.
  • • Both interdependent and interrelated activities are identified by asking if any activity, and its associated impacts, would occur but for the proposed action.


CUMULATIVE EFFECTS
  • • Effects of future state and/or private activities reasonably certain to occur within the action area as a result of the action under review. An analysis of cumulative effects includes discussing assumptions, quantifying amount and location of effects, and discussing the likely response of listed species to these cumulative effects.


CONSERVATION MEASURES
  • • Actions that reduce adverse impacts of the proposed activity. They may be timing restrictions, access closures, or changes in project features or location.  The measures should be as specific as possible.  • Conservation measures may be developed with the assistance of the Service with the objective of reducing project impacts. 


CONCLUSION
  • • The finding or determination of effect is the conclusion of the assessment and indicates the overall effect of the proposed activity to listed species or critical habitat. 
  • • This finding must be supported by the information in the biological analysis. 
  • • The analysis should lead the reviewer through a logical, biological rationale leading to a well-supported conclusion. 
  • • The finding of effect is made by the federal action agency. A recommended finding may be presented to the federal action agency by the non-federal representative. 
  • • The Service may ask the federal action agency to revisit its decision or provide more data if the conclusion is not adequately supported.
  • • The federal action agency may make one of the following determinations for each listed species or designated critical habitat:
    • - No effect – No effects from the proposed action, positive or negative, to listed species.  Does not require written concurrence from the Service unless the National Environmental Policy Act analysis is an Environmental Impact Statement.
    • -May affect, not likely to adversely affect – All effects are beneficial, insignificant, or discountable.  Insignificant effects relate to the size of the effects and should not reach the scale where take occurs.  Discountable effects are those extremely unlikely to occur.  This conclusion is usually reached through the informal consultation process, and written concurrence from the Service exempts the proposed action from formal consultation.  Written request for Service concurrence should accompany the biological assessment/biological evaluation.
    • -May affect, likely to adversely affect – Adverse effects cannot be avoided.  A combination of beneficial and adverse effects is still “likely to adversely affect” even if the net effect is neutral or positive.  The Endangered Species Act requires the federal action agency request initiation of formal consultation with the Service when this determination is made.  A written request for formal consultation should accompany the biological assessment/biological evaluation. 
  • The determination for proposed species or proposed critical habitat may be:
    • -Likely to jeopardize a proposed species/adversely modify proposed critical habitat - To jeopardize is to engage in an action that reasonably would be expected, directly or indirectly, to appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of a listed species. The destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat is a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the conservation value of critical habitat for a listed species. A written request for a conference should accompany the biological assessment or biological evaluation.  The Service is available to assist the federal action agency with their.


LITERATURE CITED
  • • Provide a list of supporting documentation used to reach your conclusion.  Be sure to include any agency reports or data that may not be available to the Service. 


LIST OF PREPARERS
  • • List the preparers and the species experts you contacted when preparing the biological assessment/biological evaluation. 


TIPS FOR DOCUMENTING PROJECT IMPACTS
  • • Include a full range of alternatives, with their environmental impacts.
  • • Assess secondary and cumulative impacts to federally-listed species - impacts of any activity that depend on the proposed action for its justification or has no independent utility apart from the proposed action.
  • • Waste water treatment plant assessments should include effects of chemicals discharged at the facility and any other changes expected (biochemical oxygen demand, flow, etc.) at and downstream of the discharge.
  • • Sewer system assessments should include net impacts to area water quality, including impact from resulting development.
  • • Quite frequently, effect determinations aren’t necessarily wrong, they simply aren’t justified in the federal action agency’s analysis. The analysis should lead the reviewer through a discussion of effects to a logical, well-supported conclusion.


EXAMPLES OF INAPPROPRIATE ARGUMENTS
  • • Displacement:  The argument that removal of habitat or disturbance of individuals results in a “not likely to adversely affect” or a “no effect” determination because individuals can go elsewhere.  Generally other suitable habitats are occupied by other individuals of that species who would then also be affected.
  • • Not Known To Occur Here:  Unless adequate surveys have been conducted or adequate information sources have been referenced, this statement begs the questions “Have you looked?” and "How have you looked?”.
  • • We’ll Deal With It Later:  If the Service will concur with a “no effect” or a “not likely to adversely affect” determination now, the federal agency will promise to coordinate if listed species are located and do whatever the Service wants to protect them.  This offers little to no assurance that the species will not be affected by the project prior to being “discovered,” is not consistent with consultation procedures, and Service concurrence is seldom given. Federal agencies need to front load project planning to include adequate time to conduct/require surveys, gather information, complete analyses, and conduct interagency consultation. 

 

 

Note: Fish & Wildlife Service project planning and review is coordinated by the Asheville Field Office in the western half of North Carolina and by the Raleigh Field Office in the eastern half.

Map: Asheville and Raleigh Field Offices work areas. Credit: USFWS Link to Raleigh Field Office web site

 

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has developed a A Guidance Memorandum to Address and Mitigate Secondary and Cumulative Impacts to Aquatic and Terrestrial Wildlife Resources and Water Quality. The memorandum provides numerous recommendations to address the environmental impacts that may result from a project. We support this document and encourage you to use it.

Photo montage of biologists shocking for fish, a biologists studying a plant, and biologists recording mussel data. Photo credits: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

 

 

Project planning and review contacts:

Address for all:
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801

Vacant
Projects involving the North Carolina Department of Transportation or Federal Highway Administration

Claire Ellwanger
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 42235
cell - 828/767-2899
claire_ellwanger@fws.gov
Projects involving the North Carolina Department of Transportation or Federal Highway Administration

Vacant
Projects involving the USDA (Forest Service, Rural Utilities Services, Farm Services, and Rural Development) National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Authority, Federal Transportation Administration or Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as mines and industrial parks

Byron Hamstead
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 42220

cell - 828/337-2726
byron_hamstead@fws.gov
Projects involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Bryan Tompkins
office - 828/257-3939, ext.42240
cell - 828 450-7586

bryan_tompkins@fws.gov
Projects involving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Valley Authority, or Natural Resources Conservation Service

 

 

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Last Updated: August 3, 2016