Virginia Field Office
Northeast Region
Endangered Species: Project Reviews in Virginia Project Review Steps


For consultation under the ESA, the action area is defined by regulation as all areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the Federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action (50 CFR §402.02) (see picture below). This analysis is not limited to the "footprint" of the action nor is it limited by the Federal agency's authority. Rather, it encompasses all temporary and permanent changes to “land, water, and air” caused by activities that would not occur but for the proposed action, and are reasonably certain to occur.

When determining the action area for your project, consider the following example areas of impact:

  1. The entire limits of disturbance, including proposed access routes and temporary work spaces as well as areas of permanent impacts
  2. Areas upstream and downstream of activities that may alter stream or river flow
  3. Areas upstream and downstream of instream work
  4. Areas downstream of new ground or surface water discharges of any kind (e.g., stormwater, wastewater, cooling water)
  5. Areas downstream of where sediment-generating activities are proposed near a stream or river
  6. Areas downstream of where pollutants (e.g., petroleum products, pesticides, herbicides) will be used or stored near a waterway or tributary to a waterway
  7. Areas impacted by new or increased surface water withdrawals
  8. The entire area in which groundwater tables may be affected (e.g., draw down, reversal of flow, introduction of petroleum products, pesticides, etc.) as a result of a new or increased ground or surface water withdrawals and/or chemical use
  9. All wetlands and waterbodies down-gradient of vegetation clearing
  10. All wetlands and waterbodies down-gradient of sediment-generating activities
  11. All wetlands and waterbodies down-gradient of proposed new impervious surface
  12. All areas likely to experience increased erosion as a result of project activities
  13. All areas in which project activities will be audible or visible, including lighting effects
  14. All areas which may become inaccessible as a result of new or enlarged barriers to movement (e.g., roads, rail lines, dams, reduced flow)
  15. All areas which may change habitat type as a result of project activities   
  16. All areas in which the composition of species (e.g., invertebrates) may be impacted by project activities (e.g., through drift of placed sediments, pesticide overspray)
  17. All areas subject to new or increased public, recreational, or other human uses (either legal or illegal) as a result of new access routes or infrastructure included in the project plans
  18. All areas affected by reasonably foreseeable future that would not occur without ("but for") the project currently being proposed

Your action area will be drawn in Step 3a using the Service’s IPaC system. Incorrectly defining the action area will likely result in incorrect species/critical habitat determinations and may result in lack of ESA compliance.

Continue to Step 3a.


Online Project Review Introduction
Step 1: Description of Action
Step 2: Action Area
Step 3a: Official Species List
Step 3b: Northern Long-Eared Bat
Step 3c: Critical Habitat
Step 4: Suitable Habitat
Step 5: Determinations
Step 6: Project Review Package

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Last updated: April 23, 2021