Project Planning and Review

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Our biologists review projects under the Endangered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act as part of:

  • Technical Assistance
    Consultants, agencies, or municipalities (no Federal nexus needed)
  • Informal Section 7 Section 7
    Section 7 Consultation The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act. Section 7 of the Act, called "Interagency Cooperation," is the mechanism by which Federal agencies ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species.

    Learn more about Section 7
    Consultation

    Federal action, permit, fund, or license (Federal nexus) that is not likely to adversely affect species or critical habitat
  • Formal Section 7 Consultation
    Federal action, permit, fund, or license (Federal nexus) that is likely to adversely affect species or critical habitat
  • Emergency Consultation (See the Southeastern Emergency Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation Resources)

 

Learn more about Technical Assistance and Section 7 Consultation.

First Steps: Where can you begin?

All reviews begin at the Information, Planning, and Conservation (IPaC) Tool, where landowners, consultants, agencies, and anyone that requires U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review of a project may request an official species listFor projects related to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), please refer to the Districts and Agency Contacts map available on the GDOT Ecology webpage to determine the appropriate USFWS contact. Please send all other requests for project reviews to GAES_Assistance@FWS.gov

For some helpful tips on navigating IPaC IPaC
Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) is a project planning tool that streamlines the USFWS environmental review process

Learn more about IPaC
, check out these training videos: 1| IPaC Extended Overview 2| How to Request an Official Species List

Our Project Planning Toolbox provides free resources that can help in planning your future projects or simply learn about imperiled species and best conservation practices.

 

7 Steps To Submit a Project Review Package

  1. Describe Action Area and Project Activities
  2. Consider At-risk and Listed Species That Occur in Project Area
  3. Evaluate Suitable Habitat
  4. Species Effect Determinations
  5. Critical Habitat Effect Determinations
  6. Consider Other Federal Trust Resources
  7. Submit Project Review Package

 

Step 1: Describe Action Area and Project Activities

Consider how elements of your project may interact with listed or at-risk species and/or their habitats. For consultation under the Endangered Species Act, the action area action area
All areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action.

Learn more about action area
is defined as “all areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the Federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action”. A detailed account and analysis of all project activities is necessary to encompass 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. Document a detailed project description including: 

  • Project location 
  • Project purpose 
  • Project timeline 
  • Map(s) delineating action area  
  • Range of impacts, such as ground disturbance, changes in water quality and quantity (surface and groundwater), air quality, artificial lighting, noise disturbance 
  • Construction and maintenance methods, equipment, and materials being used 
  • Project planning map(s) and diagram(s), including relevant engineering specifications or drawings

 

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Step 2: Consider At-risk and Listed Species That Occur in Project Area

  1. Contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Review Team. Our state agency maintains a database and has differing expertise and/or regulatory responsibility. If the agency provides documentation that a federally listed, proposed, or candidate species may be present within the action area, include this response in your project review package. 
  2. Generate an Official Resources List (or IPaC IPaC
    Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) is a project planning tool that streamlines the USFWS environmental review process

    Learn more about IPaC
    report) using the Service’s Information for Planning and Consultation tool. The Official Resources List will include all federally-listed threatened, endangered, or candidate species that may occur in the vicinity of the action area and includes a map of the action area. IPaC will also identify Critical Habitats and migratory bird habitat in the vicinity of your action area. Until the proposed project is implemented, we recommend checking IPaC every 90 days to ensure that listed, proposed or candidate species information for the action area is current. 

 

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Step 3: Evaluate Suitable Habitat 

Determine whether listed, proposed, or candidate species may occur based on the habitat within the action area. For each species included in the IPaC report, use the best available information (e.g., Georgia DNR Biodiversity Portal, Five-Year Reviews and other information available on the USFWS species profiles pages, habitat assessments/surveys) to determine whether the action area contains suitable habitat. Habitat assessments or surveys must be conducted by a qualified professional during appropriate survey times. Handling or research on endangered plants and animals is a regulated activity. State and federal permits may be required for certain species. 

  • If you can confirm suitable habitat is absent within the action area, document what source(s) of information you consulted and justification for this conclusion. 
  • If you determine that suitable habitat may be present or are uncertain whether habitat may support listed species, a detailed habitat assessment is recommended. 
  • If suitable habitat occurs within the action area, species surveys are recommended. Document that suitable habitat is present along with the source(s) of information you consulted and justification for this conclusion. Include any survey reports in your project review package.
  • If suitable habitat occurs within the action area but surveys are not conducted, include this information in your project review package. It may be necessary to assume presence for species in these circumstances and consider implementing appropriate avoidance and minimization measures, accordingly.

 

Table 1. General guidelines for evaluating whether species on the IPaC Endangered Species list may be present in an action area. If species-specific survey guidelines are available, follow those guidelines to carry out surveys and to interpret results, as appropriate.

Is the species’ habitat present in the Action Area? 

Species survey results 

Conclusion 

Next step 

Comments 

No 

Not warranted 

Species not present in action area 

Consultation not required 

Consider potential for the species’ habitat to become established in the action area. 

Yes 

Survey(s) confirm that species are absent in the action area 

Species not present in action area1 

Consultation not required 

1Plan and implement surveys and interpret results in coordination with USFWS and/or in accordance with USFWS-recommended survey protocols. 

Yes 

Survey data in the action area are unavailable or inconclusive 

Assume species is present in action area 

Initiate consultation 

 

Yes 

Survey(s) confirm that species are present in the action area 

Species is present 

Initiate consultation 

 

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Step 4: Species Effect Determinations 

Identify stressors or effects to the species and to the essential physical and biological features of any critical habitat that overlaps with the action area. Are any species 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. 

For each species included in the IPaC report, conclude whether the project will have “no effect” or “may affect” a species.  

  • 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. Concurrence from the Service is not required. 
  • 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.  
  • If a “may affect” determination is made for a species, please include all conservation measures proposed to avoid, minimize, or mitigate for potential impacts. This will help you determine if a may affect determination is “likely to adversely affect” or “not likely to adversely affect” the species. 
  • A proposed action warrants a "may affect, not likely to be adversely affect" finding when its effects – and the effects of other activities that are caused by the proposed action – are wholly beneficial, insignificant or discountable. Beneficial effects have contemporaneous positive effects without any adverse effects to the species or habitat.  Insignificant effects relate to the size of the impact and include those effects that are undetectable, not measurable, or cannot be evaluated.  Discountable effects are those extremely unlikely to occur. These determinations require informal consultation and written concurrence from the Service. 
  • A proposed action warrants a “may affect, likely to adversely affect” finding when the proposed action – or other activities caused by the proposed action – will have negative consequences to listed species or resources. These determinations require formal consultation and written concurrence from the Service. 

Note that for some species (e.g., northern long-eared bat) or projects, IPaC will present you with Determination Keys.  You may be able to use one or more Determination Keys to conclude consultation on your action. 

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Step 5: Critical Habitat Effect Determinations 

If the IPaC report suggests that the project action area overlaps with federally designated or proposed critical habitat, please evaluate whether project will have “no effect” or “may affect” and is “likely to adversely affect” or “not likely to adversely affect” critical habitat. 

Identify stressors or effects to the essential physical and biological features of any critical habitat that overlaps with the action area. 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 critical habitat. 

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Step 6: Consider Other Federal Trust Resources 

IPaC will also indicate the potential presence of migratory birds and other bird species of concern within the vicinity of the action area. To prevent and minimize potential impacts to migratory birds, please consult the Service’s Migratory Bird Program Conservation Measures Library.

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Step 7: Submit Project Review Package 

Federal agencies and their non-federal designated representatives are not required to contact us for “no effect” determinations. For “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determinations, please submit your project review package, including detailed project description, effects determination, conservation measures, and all supporting documentation. 

Non-Federal applicants may also request a project review to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act.  

A complete project review package should include: 

  • Clarify whether the project has a federal nexus, and identify the lead federal agency and, if applicable, designated representative acting on behalf of the federal agency.
  • Project description, including methods, timeline, map of project boundary and action area 
  • Official resources list (i.e., IPaC report) including FWS Project Code
  • Biological Assessments (may include habitat assessments and species survey reports)
  • Effects determinations for species and critical habitat 
  • Conservation measures

Submission Guidelines: 

Size: Please consolidate all documents into the least number of documents and e-mails as possible. We are unable to access documents uploaded to Google Drive or OneDrive. If you are unable to upload all relevant documents to an email, please contact the office at GAES_Assistance@FWS.gov or contact the appropriate transportation liaison (GDOT projects only) to request a secure file share option. 

Subject line: In your email subject title, indicate the name of your project and the project county. 

Review time: All project review packages submitted to GAES_Assistance@FWS.gov (except projects involving formal consultation) are typically reviewed by a biologist within 30 days. This timeline is extended if a project review package is incomplete and additional information is required. 

Keep records: Maintain a complete copy of the project review package in your files since it will become an integral part of your official record of compliance. 

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