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Green sea turtle hatchling at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Keenan Adams, USFWS.

Conserving endangered species in the Southeast

One of the primary responsibilities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Congress defined “species” to include subspecies, varieties, and, for vertebrates, distinct population segments.

The Endangered Species Act, often referred to as the ESA or simply “the Act,” is America’s strongest conservation law. Originally passed by Congress in 1973, the ESA is jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Service has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and anadromous fish like salmon.

All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. Check out a list of all species protected under the Act in the United States.

“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.” - President Nixon

Endangered vs. threatened

“Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

“Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The goal of the Service is to take plants and animals off the endangered and threatened species list when they have fully recovered, meaning their survival no longer depends on the the ESA protections.

A female black bear and her cubs in a tree.
Louisiana black bears in a tree. Photo by Clint Turnage, USDA.

Who we work with to conserve species

Private landowners

Nearly 80% of the land in the southeastern United States is privately owned. We recognize that private citizens, businesses and other organizations have always played a tremendous role in the conservation of southeastern plants, fish and animals.

State wildlife agencies

Section 6 of the ESA, also known as Cooperation with States, recognizes the key role that states play in conserving native wildlife and plants. The Section 6 program provides funding to states and territories for species and habitat conservation actions on non-federal lands. Through cooperative agreements states can receive funding from the Service for a variety of conservation actions that contribute toward listed species recovery.

  1. Conservation Grants provide financial assistance to states and territories to implement conservation projects for listed and candidate species.
  2. Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants provide funds to states and territories to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) through support of baseline surveys, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities.
  3. Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants provide financial assistance to states and territories to acquire land associated with approved HCPs.
  4. Recovery Land Acquisition Grants provide financial assistance to support states and territories to acquire habitat in support of draft and approved recovery plans.

Learn more about State partnerships.

Non-profit and non-governmental organizations

The Service partners with many non-profit and non-governmental organizations to conserve species across the globe. Typically the Service will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a partner organization outlining shared interest and the expectations for each organization. For example, the Service entered into a MOU with Bat Conservation International to conserve Federally listed or proposed for listing as endangered or threatened species. The two organizations will:

”… cooperate in activities necessary to maintain or increase the productivity of bats and their habitat on lands managed by the FWS, and on other lands as appropriate.”

Explore non-profile and NGO partnerships.

Other federal agencies

Section 7 of the ESA calls upon the entire U.S. federal government to participate in the conservation of species listed as threatened and endangered. Federal agencies working together, reduce costs to taxpayers and increase overall positive impacts for wildlife and habitats.

Federal agencies consult with the Service to make sure the projects they carry out do not jeopardize the continued existence of protected species. Agencies can make modifications to the way they carry out business in order to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

Guidance on determining need for incidental take permit under ESA Section 10(a)(1)(B)

Are you unsure whether you need an incidental take permit? Download the questionnaire or decision tree to learn more.

40 years at the forefront of wildlife conservation


Aaron Valenta, Chief, Restoration and Recovery, (404) 679-4144

Robert Tawes, Chief, Division of Environmental Review, (404) 679-7142

Nicole Rankin, Chief, Division of Conservation and Classification
nicole, (404) 679-7089

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