Midwest Region Endangered Species Conserving the nature of America

Endangered Species Program


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Endangered Species program is conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems.




U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Service in the Midwest


The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Find a location near you.


The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Find a location near you »



Here are some terms that you might encounter when hearing or reading about the endangered species program. Some definitions are linked to more information.


Action area means all areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the Federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action.


Applicant refers to any person, as defined in section 3(13) of the Act, who requires formal approval or authorization from a Federal agency as a prerequisite to conducting the action.


Biodiversity - The variety of life and its processes, including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.


Biological assessment refers to the information prepared by or under the direction of the Federal agency concerning listed and proposed species and designated and proposed critical habitat that may be present in the action area and the evaluation potential effects of the action on such species and habitat.


Biological opinion is the document that states the opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as to whether or not the Federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.


Candidate species - Plants and animals that have been studied and the Service has concluded that they should be proposed for addition to the Federal endangered and threatened species list. These species have formerly been referred to as category 1 candidate species. From the February 28, 1996 Federal Register, page 7597: "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."


Category 1 candidate species - A term no longer in use, having been replaced by the term "candidate species" which uses the same definition.


Category 2 candidate species - A term no longer in use. Previously referred to species for which the Service had some indication that listing as threatened or endangered might be warranted, but there were insufficient data available to justify a proposal to list them.


Category 3 candidate species - A term no longer in use. Previously referred to species which once were category 1 or 2 candidate species, but for which subsequent data indicated that listing as threatened or endangered was not appropriate.


CITES - The 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, restricting international commerce between participating nations for plant and animal species believed to be harmed by trade.


Common name - The nonscientific name of an animal or plant most widely used and accepted by the scientific community.


Conference is a process which involves informal discussions between a Federal agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under section 7(a)(4) of the Act regarding the impact of an action on proposed species or proposed critical habitat and recommendations to minimize or avoid the adverse effects.


Conservation - From section 3(3) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The terms "conserve," "conserving," and "conservation" mean to use and the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided under this Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transportation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking."


Consultation - All Federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when any activity permitted, funded, or conducted by that agency may affect a listed species or designated critical habitat.


Critical habitat - Specific geographic areas, whether occupied by listed species or not, that are determined to be essential for the conservation and management of listed species, and that have been formally described in the Federal Register.


Delist - The process of removing an animal or plant from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.


Designated non-Federal representative refers to a person designated by the Federal agency as its representative to conduct informal consultation and/or to prepare any biological assessment.


Distinct population segment - If it satisfies the criteria specified in the February 7, 1996, Federal Register, pages 4722-4725, a portion of a vertebrate (i.e., animals with a backbone) species or subspecies can be listed. The criteria require it to be readily separable from the rest of its species and to be biologically and ecologically significant. Such a portion of a species or subspecies is called a distinct population segment.


Ecosystem - Dynamic and interrelating complex of plant and animal communities and their associated nonliving (e.g. physical and chemical) environment.


Ecosystem Approach - Protecting or restoring the function, structure, and species composition of an ecosystem, recognizing that all components are interrelated.


Endangered - The classification provided to an animal or plant in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended - Federal legislation intended to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend may be conserved, and provide programs for the conservation of those species, thus preventing extinction of native plants and animals.


Endangered species permit - A document issued by the Service under authority of Section 10 allowing an action otherwise prohibited under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act.


Endemic species - A species native and confined to a certain region; having comparatively restricted distribution.


Extinct species - A species no longer in existence.


Extirpated species - A species no longer surviving in regions that were once part of their range.


Federal action agency - Any department or agency of the United States proposing to authorize, fund, or carry out an action under existing authorities.


Formal consultation is a process between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal agency that commences with the Federal agency's written request for consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the Act and concludes with the Service's issuance of the biological opinion under section 7(b)(3) of the Act.


Habitat - The location where a particular taxon of plant or animal lives and its surroundings (both living and nonliving) and includes the presence of a group of particular environmental conditions surrounding an organism including air, water, soil, mineral elements, moisture, temperature, and topography.


Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) - A plan which outlines ways of maintaining, enhancing, and protecting a given habitat type needed to protect species. The plan usually includes measures to minimize impacts, and might include provisions for permanently protecting land, restoring habitat, and relocating plants or animals to another area. An HCP is required before an incidental take permit may be issued.


Harm - An act which actually kills or injures wildlife. Such acts may include significant habitat modification or degradation when it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding, or sheltering.


Historic range - Those geographic areas the species was known or believed to occupy in the past.


Implementation schedule - An outline of actions, with responsible parties, estimated costs and timeframes, for meeting the recovery objectives described in the species recovery plan.


Incidental take - Take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity.


Incidental take permit - A permit issued under Section 10 of the Federal Endangered Species Act to private parties undertaking otherwise lawful projects that might result in the take of an endangered or threatened species. Application for an incidental take permit is subject to certain requirements, including preparation by the permit applicant of a conservation plan, generally known as a "Habitat Conservation Plan" or "HCP."


Incidental take statement - If a Federal action is reasonably certain to cause incidental take, but will not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides an incidental take statement (ITS) with its biological opinion.  The ITS specifies the amount or extent of take that the Service anticipates and includes reasonable and prudent measures (RPM) to minimize the effects of the take and terms and conditions that implement the RPMs.  Any taking which is subject of an ITS and that is in compliance with its terms and conditions is not a prohibited taking under the Act.


Informal consultation is an optional process that includes all discussions, correspondence, etc., between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal agency or the designated non-Federal representative prior to formal consultation, if required.  Informal consultation includes any form of communication between the Federal action agency, applicant, or designated non-Federal representative and the Service to determine if listed species are likely to occur in the action area and, if so, how the action may affect the species.  During information consultation, agencies and the Service may modify projects or identify acceptable alternatives that may avoid adverse effects to listed species, which could preclude the need for formal consultation. 


Jeopardize the continued existence of 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.


Lead region - The Fish and Wildlife Service Region that coordinates actions taken to assess the status of a species and, if appropriate, to propose the species for listing and to complete the final listing rule.  After listing, the lead region would coordinate actions to conserve the species and to delist the species if and when it is recovered.


Lead office - The field office that has been given the responsibility for coordinating all or most actions taken to study, propose, list, conserve, and delist a species within the boundaries of Region 3. If Region 3 is the lead region for a particular species, the lead office has these responsibilities over the entire range of that species.


Listed species - A species, subspecies, or distinct vertebrate population segment that has been added to the Federal lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants as they appear in sections 17.11 and 17.12 of Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12).


Listing - The formal process through which the Service adds species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.


Listing priority - A number from 1 to 12 indicating the relative urgency for listing plants or animals as threatened or endangered. The criteria used to assign this number reflect the magnitude and immediacy of threat to the species, as well as the relative distinctiveness or isolation of the genetic material they possess. This latter criterion is applied by giving a higher priority number to species which are the only remaining species in their genus, and a lower priority number to subspecies and varieties. These listing priorities are described in detail in the Federal Register on September 21, 1983, as pages 43098-43105.


Not likely to jeopardize biological opinion - A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion that articulates the Service’s determination that a Federal agency action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species.    


Petition (Listing) - A formal request, with the support of adequate biological data, suggesting that a species, with the support of adequate biological data, be listed, reclassified, or delisted, or that critical habitat be revised for a listed species. See also Region 3 Guidance for Potential Petitioners


Propose - The formal process of publishing a proposed Federal regulation in the Federal Register and establishing a comment period for public input into the decision-making process. Plants and animals must be proposed for listing as threatened or endangered species, and the resulting public comments must be analyzed, before the Service can make a final decision.


Proposed species - Any species of fish, wildlife, or plant that is proposed in the Federal Register to be listed under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act.


Range - The geographic area a species is known or believed to occupy.


Reauthorization - A term referring to periodic action taken by Congress to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act. By reauthorizing an act, Congress extends it and may also amend it.


Reclassify - The process of changing a species' official threatened or endangered classification.


Recovery - The process by which the decline of an endangered or threatened species is arrested or reversed, or threats to its survival neutralized so that its long-term survival in nature can be ensured.


Recovery implementation strategy - The Recovery Implementation Strategy (RIS), is a short-term, flexible operational recovery document focused on how, when, and with whom the recovery actions in a recovery plan will be implemented.


Recovery outline - The first Service recovery document provided for a listed species. While very brief, the document serves to direct recovery efforts pending the completion of the species' recovery plan.


Recovery permit - Permits issued under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Endangered Species Act for scientific research and other activities benefitting the recovery of Federally listed species.


Recovery plan - Recovery plans provide a road map with detailed site-specific management actions for private, Tribal, federal, and state cooperation in conserving listed species and their ecosystems. A recovery plan provides guidance on how best to help listed species achieve recovery, but it is not a regulatory document.


Recovery priority - A number, ranging from a high of 1C to a low of 18, whereby priorities to listed species and recovery tasks are assigned. The criteria on which the recovery priority number is based are degree of threat, recovery potential, taxonomic distinctiveness, and presence of an actual or imminent conflict between the species and development activities.


Scientific name - A formal, Latinized name applied to a taxonomic group of animals or plants. A species' scientific name is a two-part combination consisting of the name of the genus, followed by a species name. For example, the scientific name of gray bat is Myotis grisescens. If a species has been further divided into subspecies, a third part is added to the scientific name. The Ozark big-eared bat is Plecotus townsendii ingens. "Ingens" distinguishes the Ozark subspecies from other subspecies of the big-eared bat.


Scientific take permit - A type of recovery permit authorized under Section 10 allowing for research pertaining to species recovery such as taking blood samples from a peregrine falcon for genetic analysis, or conducting surveys of freshwater mussel beds to determine species status and distribution.


Section 4 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that deals with listing and recovery of species, and designation of critical habitat.


Section 4(d) rule - A special regulation developed by the Service under authority of Section 4(d) modifying the normal protective regulations for a particular threatened species when it is determined that such a rule is necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of that species.


Section 6 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that authorizes the Service to provide financial assistance to States through cooperative agreements supporting the conservation of endangered and threatened species.


Section 7 - The section of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that requires all Federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Service, to insure that their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.  This section also requires federal agencies to use their authorities to carry out programs to conserve listed species – again, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Service. 


Section 9 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that deals with prohibited actions, including the import and export, take, possession of illegally taken species, transport, or sale of endangered or threatened species.


Section 10 - The section of the Endangered Species Act that lays out the guidelines under which a permit may be issued to authorize activities prohibited by Section 9, such as take of endangered or threatened species.


Species - From Section 3(15) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The term 'species' includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature." A population of individuals that are more or less alike, and that are able to breed and produce fertile offspring under natural conditions.


Species Status Assessment (SSA) - An SSA is a focused, repeatable, and rigorous assessment of a species' ability to maintain self-sustaining populations over time. This assessment is based on the best available scientific and commercial information regarding life history, biology, and consideration of current and future vulnerabilities. The result is a single document that delivers foundational science for informing all ESA decisions, including listing determinations, consultations, grant allocations, permitting, and recovery planning.


Take - From Section 3(18) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: "The term 'take' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."


Threatened - The term “threatened species” means any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range - - as defined in the Endangered Species Act.



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