North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Agency Proposes Critical Habitat for Threatened Rufa Red Knot Shorebird

Anticipate few changes in reviewing federal actions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a proposed rule to designate 649,066 acres of critical habitat across 13 states for the rufa red knot, a robin-sized shorebird that relies on U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts to fuel its remarkable migrations from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America. If finalized, the designation would not require federal agencies to expand their current approach in reviewing federal actions such as those involving recreation, development, or other activities in rufa red knot habitat. Economists and biologists anticipate few changes to approach in reviewing federal actions along U.S. Atlantic, Gulf coasts.

The Service’s proposed rule focuses conservation in the areas along the coasts with the most rufa red knot activity. Although the birds are also known to migrate over land, no inland stopovers are included.

The proposal includes areas of Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. About 40 percent of the acres overlap with existing critical habitat for piping plover, loggerhead sea turtle, West Indian manatee, Gulf sturgeon and aboriginal prickly-apple.

We are accepting public comment and information concerning these species online at, search for Docket # FWS–R5–ES–2021–0032. Comments and information must be received on or before September 13, 2021.

Additionally, the Service will hold a virtual public meeting and hearing via Zoom and teleconference on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, Eastern time. Registration is required in advance. Additional information can be found here: Leaving this site icon


FLES Jacksonville Business Status

Open with modified office protocols 

The Florida Ecological Services Office - Jacksonville staff are remote working and available during business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM, via phone or email. Staffing at our physical office is minimal. Visitor access to the office is by appointment only. For now, our staff conducts much of their work and most meetings virtually using various technology solutions. Please contact our office (904.731.3336) or the specific staff member ( you are working with to arrange any needed support or virtual meetings. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.


FWC and partners update the Florida Wildlife Conservation Guide

Online resource to help landowners, consultants, and permit applicants

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Natural Areas Inventory, has updated the Florida Wildlife Conservation Guide. This online resource is intended to help landowners, permit applicants and environmental consultants make wildlife-friendly decisions during development planning and identify opportunities for conservation of Florida’s unique biodiversity.

The guide covers wildlife assessments and impacts, market-based conservation options, permitting, and opportunities for conservation actions at various stages of a project. It includes tools for effective land use planning, site assessments and project designs, with short descriptions and links to important resources from federal, state, county and private organizations.

Additionally, if people use the guide for planning and surveys, and submit their environmental assessment with their application, it can help expedite the review of project permit applications.


Changes in FEMA Guidance Streamline ESA Process for Many

Updates to request for FEMA Conditional Letter of Map Change letters for ESA Compliance

In May 2016, FEMA released a guidance document to inform Conditional Letter of Map Change (CLOMC) applicants of their role, responsibilities and documentation requirements to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements of Standard 215.

Documentation that the project is compliant with the ESA may be in the form of a written and signed statement confirming that applicant(s) determined that there are no endangered or threatened species present in the area or that the type of action does not have any potential to cause adverse impacts that would result in a take.

The applicant is responsible for providing FEMA a written, signed justification that the project will not result in take. The determination is not required to come from, or be concurred by, the Services.

The NFESO staff developed a checklist to assist applicants in documenting compliance with ESA when no potential for “Take” exists or, if a Federal entity is involved in the project, the applicant is using that Agencies’ Section 7 consultation to demonstrate ESA compliance.

Applicants may attach this checklist to the supporting species report, biological assessment, or federal ESA compliance documentation. Selecting the appropriate checkbox certifies compliance with ESA for CLOMC, CLOMR, or CLOMR-F applications and requires no further consultation with the Service.

As of July 2018, the North Florida Ecological Services Office (NFESO) will no longer provide signed stickers, letters, or individual project reviews for FEMA's CLOMC, CLOMR, or CLOMR-F that meet one of the listed criteria.

The details and checklist are available

Home for woodpeckers, tortoises, awarded

Base recognized for conservation work

Camp Blanding, flush with federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, donates juvenile birds to other wildlife areas across the South. Nearly two-thirds of the National Guard base in Northeast Florida is prime habitat for at-risk gopher tortoises too.

More than 10,000 acres of pine and scrub is carefully burned each year to benefit under-threat flora and fauna as well as conservation-friendly longleaf pines. And the joint military base is a critical piece in the creation of a wildlife corridor that connects central Florida to southeast Georgia.

The military installation also provides access each year to hunters, with an emphasis on providing opportunities for hunters with disabilities, seeking whitetail deer, wild hogs and turkeys.

The wide-ranging conservation and community actions have earned Camp Blanding the 2018 Military Conservation Partner Award given annually by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More... Leaving this site icon

Due to efforts of Florida, diverse stakeholders and a comprehensive management plan, state’s largest land mammal doing well

Florida Black Bear Population Continues to Increase

Today, after a robust investigation into the population and health of Florida black bears, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) found a petition to list the bear under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) did not present substantial information that listing may be warranted. This finding will be published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2017 and concludes the agency’s work on the petition.

In the 1970s, the estimated number of adult Florida black bears had fallen to only 300. Thanks to conservation efforts, that number has grown to more than 4,000 adult Florida black bears today. Not only is the population growing, there are now more black bears in the state than at any time in the last 100 years.

"This is very good news based on sound science for both the black bear and the people of Florida. State, local and industry partners are doing some incredible and really visionary conservation work across Florida, led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission," said Larry Williams, state supervisor for the Service's Ecological Services field offices in Florida. "Thanks to the cooperative efforts of all partners, Florida's largest land mammal is thriving, and we fully expect populations to continue to grow in coming years."

Florida black bears were designated as threatened by Florida and placed on the state’s Endangered and Threatened Species List in 1974. In June 2012, the state removed the subspecies from the list following strong population numbers and protections and conservation measures put into place, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Black Bear Management Plan. Leaving this site icon

"Using state of the art range and population modeling, the FWC recently estimated the Florida’s black bear population to be widespread and robust, containing over 4,000 adult bears statewide," said Dr. Thomas Eason, Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. "We will continue to conduct cutting-edge research and employ the best available science to properly manage this important species."

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Final Decision - unpublished version in Federal Register Public Inspection Leaving this site icon

Press Release Leaving this site icon

Questions and Answers

Partnerships bringing giant sea cow back from brink of extinction

Manatee Reclassified from Endangered to Threatened as Habitat Improves and Population Expands – Existing Federal Protections Remain in Place

On the heels of Manatee Appreciation Day, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the downlisting of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened. Notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to change the species’ status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The downlisting comes after diverse conservation efforts and collaborations by Florida and other manatee states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Caribbean nations, public and private organizations and citizens, there have been notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hand in hand with state and local governments, businesses, industry, and countless stakeholders over many years to protect and restore a mammal that is cherished by people around the world,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Without this type of collaboration and the commitment of state and local partners, this downlisting would not have been possible.”

In its review, FWS considered the status of the West Indian manatee throughout its range, which includes the Florida manatee subspecies, found primarily in the southeastern United States, and the Antillean manatee, found in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Greater and Lesser Antilles (see range map). The downlisting means that the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future without continued ESA protections.

Although the downlisting represents a milestone for the manatee, the agency underscored that important challenges still remain to ensuring the species’ long-term future throughout its range. As such, FWS biologists emphasized that the downlisting will not diminish any existing federal protections that will continue to play a vital role in the recovery of the species. The manatee will also continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.


Final Decision - as published in Federal Register Leaving this site icon -or Downbload PDF

Press Release Leaving this site icon

Questions and Answers (HTML) - PDF Version Leaving this site icon

USGS Status and Threats analysis for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostis), 2016 Leaving this site icon

News Conference

Project Consultations: Florida ES Offices

Florida project planners have new tool for ESA consultation preps

The Florida Ecological Services field offices developed a short checklist and companion guidance document to assist consultants, permit applicants and action agencies in assembling complete consultation requests. These documents can help avoid delays in initiating an ESA consultation. The checklist helps you and our staff quickly identify whether all necessary components of a complete request are included.

For details checkout our Landowner-Consultants Tools page for these and other useful tolls and information..

Threatened and Endangered Species: Habitat Conservation

USFWS and NOAA Update Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) have jointly revised the 1996 Habitat Conservation Planning (HCP) Handbook. The HCP program has evolved substantially over the past 30 years, and requires updated guidance for those developing, reviewing, and implementing HCPs.

The goals of the revised Handbook are to: (1) provide clear, consistent, and updated guidance concerning HCP planning and implementation for Services’ staff; (2) streamline and create efficiencies in the HCP development and permitting processes, (3) provide greater conservation benefits to listed species, (4) inspire conservation possibilities associated with HCPs that contribute to listed species recovery, resiliency, and responses to climate change, (5) improve compliance and effectiveness monitoring, and (6) create a user-friendly, living document.

Notable differences between the 1996 and revised HCP Handbook include the following:

  • Reorganizes the HCP Handbook to follow the steps necessary for Services’ staff to assist applicants in the development of their HCP, processing the incidental take permit application, and conducting compliance and effectiveness monitoring;
  • Emphasizes concurrent consideration and development of environmental compliance documents(e.g.: National Environmental Policy Act , National Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act intra-service section 7 consultation);
  • Clarifies the HCP planning process and key concepts;
  • Incorporates climate change considerations throughout the HCP planning process.

Go here for more details. Leaving site icon

Federal Register Notice Leaving site icon

Federal Docket FWS-HQ-ES-2016-0004 for this action @ Leaving site icon

USFWS/NOAA 2016 revised Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook - PDF -

Threatened and Endangered Species: ESA Petitioning Processes Revised

Improvements to Petitioning Process under Endangered Species Act Promotes Coordination, Transparency; Ensures Robust Scientific Review

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the backbone of conservation efforts for America’s most imperiled plants and animals. It has helped prevent the extinctions of hundreds of species of plants and animals and promoted recovery efforts that have ensured future generations live in a world with bald eagles, American alligators and Steller sea lions. Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration has prioritized efforts to revise regulations and policies to make the ESA more effective, more transparent and easier to implement.

As part of that endeavor, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries (together, the Services) – the agencies that implement the ESA – have improved the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the ESA. The regulations also describe the process by which a petitioner may request revisions to critical habitat designations under the ESA. The revised ESA petition regulations will help ensure more complete and robust petitions that will lead to more effective conservation, greater involvement by state wildlife agencies, and provide greater transparency to the public.

Taken together, the revisions will allow the Services and their partners to better leverage limited resources to more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife. Revisions to the petition regulations were originally proposed in May 2015 and today’s final revisions reflect extensive input from the public and stakeholders. ...more

Federal Register Notice Leaving site icon

Federal Docket FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0016 @ Leaving site icon

News Release

Threatened and Endangered Species: Blue-green Algea Blooms

Federal biologists say no direct health effects on manatees have been confirmed related to the blue-green algae bloom occurring in and around the St. Lucie River and estuary in Martin County

Blue agreen algae bloom along Duval County, FL beach front.

Blue green algae along Florida beach in Duval County..
Photo Courtesy: Florida Department of Health - Duval

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms, while unsightly, are not known to directly affect manatees.

  • As herbivores, manatees eat plants and incidentally ingest algae and other materials while feeding. Freshwater blue-green algae (commonly seen to form a green scum on the surface of the water) could be ingested. So far, it is not known to cause health problems in manatees nor is it known to affect their ability to breed.
  • Blue-green algae blooms can, if present for extended periods of time, shade out aquatic grassbeds where manatees feed and can cause grassbeds to die. The temporary loss of these feeding sites will cause manatees to feed elsewhere until the grassbeds return. Manatees routinely feed at multiple sites, including sites many miles apart.

Government agencies are monitoring algal blooms and manatees in the vicinity of the blooms. The Service is coordinating closely with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists and researchers. Because manatees are not known to be affected by the blooms, there are no plans to relocate them to other areas.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Algal Bloom Information Leaving site icon

Florida Department of Health - Duval Blue Green Algae Safety Tips Leaving site icon

2016 Updated Wood Stork Map and Mapping Data Available

Wood storks and chicks on nest

Nesting Wood storks

Photo: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed updating the mapping information for Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) nesting colonies and core forging areas in Florida and the Southeastern U.S. The updated information reflects data from 2005 through 2014, and includes an updated PDF map, GIS shapefiles, and versions of the data compatible with Google Earth. The updated data files are available via the link below and on our Consultant/Landowner Tools reference page.

Wood stork Information


Threatened and Endangered Species: Update Permit Conditions

Service posts updated permit conditions for captive sea turtles

Juvenile Hawksbill sea turtle being held.

Hawksbill sea turtle

Photo: USFWS

Individuals and institutions possessing a Service permit to hold captive sea turtles must meet new permit conditions.

The updated Standard Permit Conditions encompass the transport, rehabilitation, and disposition of sea turtles.

Details for the new conditions can be found on the Landowner/Consultant Tools and Sea Turtle information pages.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sea Turtle Permits

Service makes updated Skink Guidance Available

Sand Skink

Sand skink.

Photo: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has revised the conservation guidelines and survey protocol for the threatened sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) and blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregius lividus). The updated information is available via the link below and on our Consultant/Landowner Tools reference page.

Skink Information

Updated Eastern indigo snake protocols for North & Central Florida

Eastern Indigo Snake

Eastern Indgio Snake
Photo: USFWS

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's North Florida Ecological Services Office (NFESO) updated its Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) protocols. The updated survey protocols provide consultants and landowners a project planning tool to improve the Service's review of permit applications and proposed land clearing activities for potential effects on the federally-threatened eastern indigo snake. The tool is applicable to the NFESFO geographic area of responsibility, which includes the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, St. Johns, Seminole, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, and Volusia.

Click here for to review the new information

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Last updated: July 20, 2021