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Section 7 Consultation Technical Assistance
Step-by-Step Instructions - Step 3
In step 2, you found that (1) a listed species is likely to be present in the action area or (2) it overlaps with critical habitat. In this step, you will determine whether your project may affect a listed species or critical habitat and whether consultation is required.
A. Describe the action and the effects of the action.
B1. Determine whether any of the species are likely to be exposed to stressors caused by the proposed action. Consider all consequences of the action and assess the potential for each life stage of the species that occurs in the action area to be exposed to the stressors. Deconstruct the action into its component parts to be sure that you do not miss any part of the action that could cause effects to the species.
- If no listed or proposed species will be exposed to stressors caused by the action, a ‘no effect’ conclusion may be appropriate – be sure to separately assess effects to critical habitat, if any overlaps with the action area (see B2). See this example of a "no effect" document.
- Stressors that affect species’ resources may have consequences even if the species is not present when the project is implemented. For example, removal of Indiana bat maternity roost trees during the winter would affect females when they return from hibernacula in the spring.
B2. If the action area does not overlap with critical habitat, go to Step C. If it does, determine whether the proposed action or other activities that are caused by the proposed action will affect any of the physical and biological features (PBF) of critical habitat. Deconstruct the action into its component parts to be sure that you do not inadvertently exclude any potential consequences of the action. Go to Step C.
C. Determine whether – and how – the species or critical habitat PBFs are likely to respond or change, respectively, upon exposure. Check the pertinent “SPECIES INFO” thumbnail available from within IPaC for useful information sources (Figs. 1 and 2).
Determination and Next Steps
- No Effect
- A ‘no effect’ conclusion would be appropriate if the proposed action – or other activities that are caused by the proposed action – would have no consequences to listed species or critical habitat.
- Document your finding. The ESA does not require consultation if the proposed action and other activities that are caused by the proposed action will result in no effect whatsoever to listed species or critical habitat.
- If the proposed action – or other activities that are caused by the proposed action – may affect proposed species or proposed critical habitat, determine whether a conference [ESA §7(a)(4)] is required.
- May Affect
- A ‘may affect’ determination would be appropriate if the proposed action – or other activities that are caused by the proposed action – may have consequences to listed species or critical habitat. For example,
- one or more individuals of a listed species may respond to a stressor caused by the proposed action or by other activities that are caused by the proposed action; or,
- the proposed action or other activities that are caused by the proposed action may result in changes to one or more critical habitat PBFs in the action area.
- To determine whether the potential effects are likely to be adverse, proceed to Step 4.
Adequacy of Information & Surveys
- Agencies may base their determinations on the best evidence that is available or can be developed during consultation. Agencies must give the benefit of any doubt to the species when there are any inadequacies in the information. Inadequacies may include uncertainty in any step of the analysis.
- If determinations are based on inadequate information, then the Federal agency has a “continuing obligation to make a reasonable effort to develop that information.”
- To provide adequate information on which to base a determination, it may be appropriate to conduct surveys to determine whether listed species are present in the action area. Please contact the Ecological Services Field Office for more information or see the survey guidelines that the Service has made available in IPaC (Fig. 2).