What We Do

A plant or animal species can receive protections provided by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) if it is on the federal lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. The List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (50 CFR 17.11) and the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (50 CFR 17.12) contain the names of all species that either we or the National Marine Fisheries Service (for most marine life) have been found to be in the greatest need of federal protection.

When evaluating whether a species is endangered or threatened, we consider the following five factors:

  1. damage to, or destruction of, a species’ habitat;
  2. overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  3. disease or predation;
  4. inadequacy of existing protection; and
  5. other natural or manmade factors that affect the continued existence of the species.

When one or more of these factors imperils the survival of a species, we take action to list the species as endangered or threatened to ensure the appropriate protective measures apply. Using these factors, we also assess species already listed to determine whether they should be reclassified from threatened to endangered and whether threats have been reduced or eliminated to the point the species should be reclassified from endangered to threatened or removed from the list.

Critical Habitat

When a domestic species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened, we identify specific areas within the United States that contain the physical or biological features essential to its conservation. These areas are the species’ critical habitat.  The ESA requires the designation of critical habitat when it is both “prudent and determinable,” terms that are defined in the ESA.

Learn more about critical habitat.

Foreign Species

Like the domestic listing side of the program, foreign species classification involves determining the status of foreign species and whether they should be added to the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants to receive protections provided by the ESA. It also involves assessing foreign species already listed as threatened or endangered to determine whether they should be reclassified from threatened to endangered, reclassified from endangered to threatened, or removed from the list (delisted) once recovery goals have been met.

By regulating the activities of American citizens and residents with regard to foreign listed species, the ESA helps to ensure that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of these species. Without permits consistent with the conservation goals of the ESA, activities such as the import or export of endangered or threatened species are unlawful.

Find answers to frequently asked questions.

View the complete list of foreign species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA.

Learn more about international conservation.

Our Services

Although we may initiate listing proposals, we also may start the listing process with a petition from any member of the public. Petitions are formal requests to list a species as endangered or threatened under the ESA. Any interested person may submit a written petition either electronically or by mail. The ESA requires that we make and publish specific findings on the petition. We must make a finding within 90 days of receiving a petition (to the extent practicable) as to whether or not there is "substantial information" indicating that the petitioned listing may be warranted. If this preliminary finding is positive, a status review is conducted. Within one year of receipt of the petition, we must make a further finding that the listing either is or is not warranted. A positive one-year finding can be incorporated into a proposed listing rule or, if a prompt proposal is precluded by other listing activities, the proposal may be deferred. These "warranted but precluded" determinations require subsequent one-year determinations in each successive year until either a proposed listing rule is published or a "not warranted" finding is made.

Read a public advisory on submitting petitions under the ESA.

See a list of petitions received by the Service.

Our Projects and Research

In order to provide the best possible conservation for imperiled species across the nation and beyond, we developed a set of workplans for addressing listing and classification decisions on domestic and foreign (non-U.S.) species over the next several years.

Young gopher tortoise is walking through grasses found in the longleaf ecosystem.

In order to provide the best possible conservation for our nation's imperiled species, we developed a National Listing Workplan (Workplan) for addressing domestic listing and critical habitat decisions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The U.S. Fish and...

An African elephant bull travels through tall grass in a forested area.

In order to provide the best possible conservation for imperiled species worldwide, we developed a Foreign Listing Workplan (Workplan) for addressing Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions on foreign (non-U.S.) species throughout the next six years.

Our priority is to...

Squirrel sitting in tree

In order to recognize success in recovering species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), keep the lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plant species accurate and up-to-date, and focus conservation resources on those species most in need, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews...

Our Laws and Regulations

The Endangered Species Act establishes protections for fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery;...