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Consultation and Habitat Conservation Planning Program

The Endangered Species Act protects endangered and threatened species of wildlife and plants. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) outlines the procedures for Federal interagency cooperation to conserve federally listed species and designated critical habitat. Section 7(a)(1) directs all Federal agencies to utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the Act by carrying out programs for the conservation of species and designated critical habitat. Section 7(a)(2) states that each Federal agency shall insure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. The Federal agency consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) using the process described below.

Section 10 of the ESA provides a permit process for private citizens, landowners, corporations, Tribes, States, and counties that may have projects that would result in incidental take of listed species. Landowners can receive a permit to take listed species incidental to otherwise legal activities, provided they have developed an approved Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). HCPs include an assessment of the potential impacts to species from the proposed action, the steps that the permit holder will take to minimize and mitigate the impacts, and the funding available to carry out the steps. HCPs may benefit not only landowners but also species by securing and managing important habitat.

  • Section 7 Consultation

    Step 1: How to Determine if Listed Species or Critical Habitat is Within the Project Area

    The Federal agency, or designated applicant, should contact the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife office, in writing, to determine if listed species or critical habitat is present within the project area. We respond by providing a list of species or critical habitat units that are known to occur or may occur in the vicinity if the project. If there are no species or critical habitat units in the action area, then no further consultation is required.

    Flow Chart - Section 7 Consultation for Action Agencies (pdf 34K)

    Step 2: Listed Species or Critical Habitat is Found within the Project Area - Informal Consultaiton

    If listed species or critical habitat units are present, the Federal agency must determine if the proposed action may affect them. If the determination is yes, there is a risk to listed species or critical habitat, then we enter into informal consultation. Informal consultation is an opportunity for us to work with the Federal agency to evaluate the project and offer our expertise. If effect of the action is discountable, insignificant, or beneficial, then the correct determination is “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect.” If after review we agree with the Federal agency’s determination, we provide our concurrence in writing and no further consultation is required. If there is a potential to adversely affect a listed species or critical habitat, then formal consultation is triggered.

    Step 3: The Project May Adversely Affect Listed Species or Critical Habitat - Formal Consultation

    If the Federal agency determines the action is “likely to adversely affect” listed species, then they must request initiation of formal consultation. This request is made in writing to the Service. A complete initiation package includes a description of the action being considered; a description of the specific area that may be affected by the action; a description of any listed species or critical habitat that may be affected by the action; a description of the manner in which the action may affect any listed species or critical habitat, and an analysis of any cumulative effects; relevant reports, including any environmental impact statements, environmental assessments, biological assessment or other analyses prepared on the proposal; and any other relevant studies or other information available on the action, the affected listed species, or critical habitat.

    Template - Biological Assessments/Biological Evaluations

    Endangered Species Consultation Handbook - Procedures for Conducting Consultation and Conference Activities Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act

    Consultations with Federal Agencies - Frequently Asked Questions


    Habitat Conservation Plans

    Habitat Conservation Plans are planning documents required as part of an application for an incidental take permit and provide a framework for people to complete projects while conserving at-risk species of plants and animals. Congress envisioned HCPs as integrating development and land-use activities with conservation in a climate of cooperation. Habitat Conservation Plans can apply to both listed and non-listed species, including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing. Conserving species before they are in danger of extinction or are likely to become so can also provide early benefits and prevent the need for listing.

    Through the HCP process, a non-Federal landowner submits an application for a permit that allows limited take of federally listed threatened and endangered (T/E) species as a consequence of a particular proposed land use. As part of the application package, the applicant provides an HCP that includes an assessment of impacts likely to result from the proposed take of one or more federally listed or unlisted species; measures that the applicant for the incidental take permit will undertake to monitor, mitigate, and minimize the impact on wildlife; funding sources to implement the plan; procedures to deal with changed and unforeseen circumstances; and alternative actions that the permit applicant analyzed and the reasons that the applicant didn’t adopt them. Even though take of the species may occur, the intent of an HCP is to provide conservation for the species and to ensure the action does not appreciably reduce survival and recovery of the species in the wild, while otherwise legal use of the land may continue.

    By allowing the Service to issue incidental take permits to landowners who develop HCPs, Congress provided certainty that people can proceed with their activities, confident that they are consistent with the Endangered Species Act. This assurance is important, particularly to people who depend on their property for income.

    Online Resources:

    HCP Handbook

    Application Form -  Incidental Take Permits Associated with a Habitat Conservation Plan

    Conservation Plans Working Together for Endangered Species Brochure



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