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A small gopher tortoise with tan shell standing on sandy grass covered soil.
Information icon Gopher tortoise. Photo by Randy Browning, USFWS.

Habitat conservation

Destruction, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat is the driving force behind today’s decline in species and biodiversity. Impacts to habitat can be caused directly by such activities as the clearing of forests to grow crops or build homes, or indirectly, such as by the introduction of invasive species or increased pollution run-off from yards and fields.

The Service has tools available to help partners with conservation of listed, candidate, and at-risk species. From best management practices to conservation banking, there are a variety of options to explore to explore for enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.

Voluntary conservation tools

Learn how you can help wildlife through the voluntary conservation tools that are available. Explore more detailed descriptions and examples of available voluntary conservation tools in the Service’s booklet, Working Together: Tools for Helping Imperiled Wildlife on Private Lands.


Explore the suite of cutting-edge conservation tools that the Service has created to assist you with your habitat conservation plans.

Benefits for species

Fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats should benefit in improved chances for their long-term survival. If the conservation measures prove effective, threats to the species should be reduced or eliminated. As a result, the species may not need the ultimate Federal protection, which is to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Benefits for states

States are equal partners with the Service in these agreements. They can initiate a conservation agreement for a species or a group of species in the same habitat, and they have the authority to enroll landowners. Importantly, the states retain management of species. If they participate in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurance (CCAA), states can also receive regulatory certainty and cost containment if the species requires federal protection.

Benefits for landowners

Landowners, including states, private entities and other non-federal landowners, are assured of regulatory certainty and cost containment when they sign on to a CCAA. From the outset, they know and have agreed to the specific conservation measures they will need to implement on their properties.

Benefits for non-governmental organizations

Non-governmental organizations may also be equal partners with the Service. Like the states, they can initiate the conservation agreements and enroll landowners, if they have the required resources and authority within their organizations.

Benefits for the public

Benefits to the public include cost-effective conservation actions designed to enhance fish, wildlife and their habitats for future generations of Americans. Wildlife improves the quality of human life, from offering natural filters for air and water to providing cures for diseases. Saving every species enhances our own long-term survivability and enjoyment of this planet. In addition, the more we can prevent the need to protect species under the ESA, the fewer regulations will be placed on landowners, hunters, anglers, and others who interact with those species.

Benefits for other federal agencies

Federal agencies that participate in conservation agreements have greater flexibility in how they manage their land for species conservation in the future, to help prevent the need for an ESA listing. From the outset, federal agencies work with the Service to determine the best course of conservation action on their land.

Proactive Conservation Efforts by Federal Agencies

Section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires all federal agencies to use their authority as appropriate to carry out programs for the conservation (i.e., recovery) of endangered and threatened species. Under this provision, Federal agencies can enter into partnerships and Memoranda of Understanding with the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to implement and fund conservation agreements, management plans, and recovery plans for listed species.

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