About Us

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to identify species of wildlife and plants that are endangered or threatened based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available. An “endangered” species is any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a “threatened” species is any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We add species that meet these definitions to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at § 17.11 (50 CFR 17.11) or the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants at 50 CFR 17.12.

A “candidate species” is a plant or animal species for which we have sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to support a proposal for listing as endangered or threatened, but listing is precluded by higher priority work within the Listing and Classification Program.

Candidate species receive no statutory protection under the ESA. However, we encourage cooperative conservation efforts for these species because they are, by definition, species that may warrant future protection under the ESA.

View the current list of candidate species.

Our History

Interest in conserving species in danger of extinction got national attention in 1966 when Congress passed the Endangered Species Preservation Act. Globally, the issue generated action in 1969, when Congress passed the Endangered Species Conservation Act, which recognized that fish and wildlife and plants know no jurisdictional boundaries and that conservation is a global issue. In an international approach, the Act called for a meeting of countries to plan a strategy to prevent extinctions—an event that took place in 1973, when 80 nations gathered in Washington, D.C., demonstrating the scope of the concern. Months later, on December 28, 1973, President Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act.

Policies and Regulations

We have developed a number of national policies and issued internal guidance to promote efficiency and consistency in our implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Below you will find links to summaries of our major policies related to the conservation of candidate species.

Policy or RegulationDateDocument
Final Decision on Identification of Candidates for Listing as Endangered or ThreatenedDecember 5, 199661 FR 64481
Safe Harbors and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances - RegulationsJune 17, 199964 FR 32705
Final Policy for Candidate Conservation Agreements with AssurancesJune 17, 199964 FR 32726
Response to Public Comments on Amending General Permitting Regulations Relating to Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements With AssurancesJanuary 22, 200166 FR 6483
Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances; Revisions to the Regulations May 3, 200469 FR 24084
Revisions to the Regulations for Candidate Conservation Agreements With AssurancesDecember 27, 201681 FR 95053
Candidate Conservation Agreements With Assurances PolicyDecember 27, 201681 FR 95164

FWS Service Manual Chapter: Policy Regarding Voluntary Prelisting Conservation Actions

May 31, 2018PDF, 64 pages