Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Region

Candidate Conservation & Listing Program

The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office’s candidate conservation and listing program is responsible for responding to petitions, assessing species for candidacy and listing, preparing listing rules, reclassifiying Pacific Islands listed species, and designating critical habitat for listed species.

Listing Petition Process - When the Service is formally requested (“petitioned”) to list a species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, we must make a finding within 90 days determining whether or not there is substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. If this preliminary finding is positive, then within one year we must determine whether or not listing is warranted. If we determine that listing is warranted, we then prepare a proposed listing. Anyone may petition the Service to have a species listed or reclassified as endangered or threatened. Click here for The Petition Process flowchart (pdf file 135K).

Candidate Assessment - The Service annually assesses the status of candidate species and publishes a notice of review (Candidate Notice of Review) that identifies species considered to be candidates for listing. To become a candidate, the Service relies largely upon petitions, surveys, and other substantiated reports on field studies from state agencies, public and private groups and individuals. All notices throughout the rulemaking process are published in the Federal Register.

Because of the large number of candidates and the time required to list a species, the Service has developed a priority system designed to direct its efforts objectively toward the plants and animals in the greatest need. The degree of threat is the highest decisive factor, followed by the immediacy of the threat and the taxonomic distinctiveness of the species.

Listing - A species is only determined to be an endangered species or a threatened species because of any one or more of the following factors (economics or others not listed here are not permissible under the Act):

  • the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
  • overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  • disease or predation;
  • the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
  • other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.

The Service publishes a proposed rule to list the species as endangered or threatened in the Federal Register. At this stage, all interested parties are encouraged to comment and provide additional information on the proposal and to submit statements at any public hearing that may be held.

Within one year of publication of a listing proposal, one of three possible courses of action must be taken: 1) a final listing rule is published; 2) if the biological information then on hand does not support the listing, the proposal is withdrawn; or 3) if, at the end of one year, there is substantial disagreement within the scientific community concerning the biologic appropriateness of the listing, the proposal may be extended, but only for an additional six months. After that, a decision must be made on the basis of the best scientific information available. If approved, the final listing rule generally becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. After a species is listed, its status is reviewed at least every five years to determine if Federal protection is still warranted.

Critical Habitat - When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened, areas of habitat believed essential to its conservation and that may require special management or protection may be proposed for designation as "critical habitat." We consider the physical or biological features laid out in the appropriate quantity and spatial arrangement for the conservation of the species. These features may include space for growth and normal behavior; food, water, air, light, or minerals; cover or shelter; sites for breeding, reproduction and rearing of offspring, and; habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historic geographical and ecological distribution of a species. Designated areas usually include only the habitat actually occupied by a species, but areas outside the species' current range may also be included when considered essential to its conservation. The Endangered Species Act directs the Service to designate critical habitat for endangered and threatened species when "prudent and determinable." When a designation of critical habitat is determined to be prudent, the Service publishes a proposal in the Federal Register and solicits public comments.

A proposal to designate critical habitat requires the Service to prepare an analysis that considers the economic and other impacts of the proposed designation. Certain areas may be excluded from the critical habitat designation if the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. However, such areas cannot be excluded if their exclusion would result in extinction of the species.

A designation of critical habitat does not create a wildlife refuge or wilderness area, nor does it close the area to human activity. It applies only to Federal agencies if they propose to fund, authorize, or carry out activities that may adversely modify areas within the designated critical habitat. Critical habitat may be designated on private or State lands, but activities on these lands are not restricted by the Endangered Species Act unless direct harm to listed wildlife would result or a Federal permit or other Federal involvement is required.

Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances

The CCAA program is similar to the Safe Harbor Agreement program in that its intent is to encourage voluntary conservation on non-Federal lands. The difference is that the species benefiting from the conservation are non-listed species, meaning they are species at risk of going extinct, but they have not been listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act for a variety of reasons. The over-arching goal of the CCAA Program is for these “at-risk species” to derive sufficient benefit from this voluntary conservation so as to not require listing in the future. It is unlikely that any one landowner can single-handedly save a species from extinction, so while the benefit to the species is measured on an a situational basis, it is also measured by asking the question, “If these same conservation actions were applied by similarly situated landowners, would listing be necessary to recover the species?” It is the hope of the Service that with enough voluntary landowners contributing their lands to conservation, that we will be able to answer this question with a resounding, “Yes” for the Pacific Island’s (and the nation’s) at-risk species.

To encourage land owners to participate in this program, the Service not only provides technical assistance in developing and writing an agreement, but upon approval of an agreement, it issues the landowner an Enhancement of Survival Permit that becomes effective if/when the species become listed in the future. The permit would authorize incidental take of the species that might occur during the regular course of land management; back-to-baseline take would be considered on a case-by-case basis depending upon the risk to the species. The Enhancement of Survival Permit also provides assurance to the landowner that no other requirements or responsibilities will be expected of them in the future, even if the species becomes listed.

Online Resources:

Flyer Candidate Conservation Agreements With Assurances For Non-Federal Property Owners

For more information:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
300 Ala Moana Boulevard
Room 3-122
Honolulu, HI 96850
(808) 792-9400
(808) 792-9581 fax


Last updated: October 2, 2014
Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
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