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        United States Department of the Interior

                                    FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE    
                                          Washington, D.C. 20240



In Reply Refer To:                                                                                                                     MAY 11, 1998



Regional Directors, Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7




Final Section 7 Consultation Handbook 

Attached please find the Final Endangered Species Consultation Handbook for immediate distribution and implementation within your Regions. All previous versions of the Handbook should be discarded. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service worked cooperatively in developing and finalizing the subject document. The Handbook provides internal guidance and establishes national policy for conducting consultations and conferences pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. Additionally, adherence to the Handbook will ensure consistent implementation of consultation procedures and development of associated documents by those biologists responsible for carrying out section 7 activities. Its purpose is to promote efficiency and nationwide consistency within and between the two organizations.

The Handbook addresses the major consultation processes, including informal, formal, emergency, special consultations, and conferences. Standardized language is provided for incorporation into Biological Opinion documents to achieve consistency and to ensure that all consultation documents are complete from a regulatory standpoint. Background information and example documents are provided in appendices.

Some of the changes from previous drafts include:

The Handbook will be updated periodically as new regulations and policies are developed affecting implementation of the section 7 regulations, or as new consultation or assessment techniques evolve, and as additional examples or graphics become available. Regional Offices are encouraged to use the final Handbook to develop example documents appropriate for their geographical area and individual situations, and to coordinate with other Federal and State agencies in distributing these documents. To assist you in the consultation process, an electronic copy of the outline of a formal consultation package, and Appendix B (standardized language) will be provided to each Regional Office for distribution to the field offices.

Although primarily targeted toward employees of FWS and NWS, other groups participating in the consultation process, including other Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, private individuals, consultants, and industry groups should find the Handbook helpful in explaining section 7 processes and providing examples of various types of consultations. As such, a Federal Register notice is currently being prepared to announce the availability of the Handbook to the general public. AU Regions were solicited for an estimate of the number of copies needed to provide their respective field offices and any other potential requests over the next few years. Based on your responses we submitted our print order and are completing the necessary mailings. The Regions will be responsible for providing copies to all of their field offices and for responding to future requests within their geographic area of responsibility. Although written to provide internal agency guidance, this Handbook is fully available for public use.

We will soon be contacting you regarding upcoming National Workshops to discuss the changes that have occurred since the issuance of the November 1994 Draft Consultation Handbook and the process for national and Regional implementation. Your active participation is vital for a successful implementation phase of the Handbook. If you have questions or require additional information, please contact Mary Klee, Division of Endangered Species at 703/358-2106.


Link to Section 7 Consultation Handbook

For more information about this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management. 


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