Georgia Ecological Services Field Offices
Southeast Region
Georgia ESFO Map

Questions and Answers

How do environmental contaminants affect fish and wildlife?

Some contaminants may cause acute poisoning and kill fish, birds, or other wildlife outright. Other contaminants may cause more subtle effects, such as reproductive or developmental problems, behavioral abnormalities, or immune system dysfunction. In these cases, individual animals often appear healthy, but the exposure to contaminants causes a long-term decline in the population.

Where do environmental contaminants come from?

Contaminants enter the environment in many different ways. Industrial discharges, oil or chemical spills, pesticide applications, improper disposal of hazardous waste, and road and parking lot run-off are just a few. In many cases the source of contamination may be difficult to determine. Some contaminants may be released into the air and later deposit many miles away from the source. Others may seep into groundwater during a spill and contaminate a stream long after the initial release.

Isn’t the EPA responsible for protecting the environment from contaminants?

Our primary goal is the protection of fish, wildlife, and their supporting habitats. In fact, we are the only federal agency specifically concerned with the effects of environmental contaminants on fish and wildlife. While FWS contaminants specialists do provide technical support to the EPA, the EPA's primary focus is human health and safety. Any benefits to fish and wildlife are usually indirect to EPA’s primary mission.

How is the Fish and Wildlife Service working with Georgia Department of Transportation to facilitate road construction in Georgia?

The State of Georgia is rich in natural resources. The coolwater streams of northern Georgia, the slow moving rivers of southern Georgia, the extensive freshwater wetlands of southeastern Georgia and the coastal estuaries and barrier islands from Savannah to St. Mary s represent a natural resource of significant beauty and productivity. Georgia is also one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Of particular note in Georgia, is the Governor s Road Improvement Project (GRIP) which is designed to provide the infrastructure to support Georgia s rapid growth.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working with GADOT and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), the Federal funding agency, to assure that future delays in road construction are minimized and that natural resource and endangered species issues receive full consideration during project design. To that end, the Service, GADOT, FHWA and other appropriate regulatory and resource agencies (Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and National Marine Fisheries Service) have jointly developed a planning process (known as the Local Coordination Procedures) for coordinating projects during early planning efforts to assure that natural resource issues are given full consideration early in the planning process.

Why is the Fish and Wildlife Service involved in my application to the Corps for a wetland fill permit?

Many fish and wildlife resources are wetland or water-dependent, including recreational and interjurisdictional fisheries, endangered and threatened species, and migratory birds.

In the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Congress requires that any department or agency of the US, or any public or private agency under Federal permit or license consult with the Service whenever they proposed or authorized impoundment, diversion, channel deepening, or other modification of a stream or other body of water. The purpose of this consultation was to prevent loss or damage to wildlife resources and provide for development and improvement of these resources in connection with such water resource development.

Does the ESA stop development?

The Georgia Field Office reviews hundreds of federally funded or permitted projects each year, none of which have ever been stopped. If a project might impact a federally protected species or rare habitat, Service biologists work closely with the agency that is coordinating the project, making recommendations that will minimize impacts to listed species or their habitats while allowing the project to proceed.

If there are endangered species on my property, are there restrictions on what I can do?

Possibly. It is illegal to harm or harass an endangered or threatened species; under the law this is referred to as "take." Continuing your normal daily activities may not present a problem. However, if you are planning construction work or major changes, it is best to check with our office before proceeding. You make need a permit from the Service if your work will harm or harass a Federally protected species. In addition, you should check with your local state agencies regarding state listed species.

For further reading please visit our Endangered Species page.

Is there any money available to help wildlife on my land?

There are opportunities for cost-sharing partnerships through several Federal programs such as Partners for Fish and Wildlife. Assistance and information are available through our office and at our national website

Why is the red-cockaded woodpecker endangered when I have seen them all over central and northern Georgia?

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small bird that is often confused with two more common species of woodpeckers that inhabit hardwood and pine hardwood forests (especially in central and north Georgia). Most likely, the birds more commonly seen and mistaken for the red- cockaded woodpecker are downy woodpeckers or hairy woodpeckers.

The easiest way to distinguish between these species is the habitat you are in. The red-cockaded woodpecker is almost always found in large mature pine forests with open and grassy (almost park-like) mid- and under-story. The other woodpeckers are more commonly seen in typical hardwood or mixed pine/hardwood uplands with a heavy mid- and under-story.


Last updated: March 30, 2015