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A petition to list the Caddo Mountain salamander was found to be “not substantial” in June 2015. Photo by Aposematic herpetologist, CC-BY-NC 2.0.

90-Day Petition Findings

The public may petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider modifying the existing federal laws to protect a species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A 90-day finding is our formal evaluation of the claims made within a petition.

90-day findings are published in the Federal Register and represent the Service’s first step in assessing the measures proposed in a petition.

A 90-day finding is not a status assessment of the species and does not constitute a status review under the ESA. It does not list a species as threatened or endangered under the Act.

Petitions under the ESA

A petition is a formal request filed under the ESA by an interested party. Petitions can propose that the Service:

  • Add a species to, or remove a species from, the threatened or endangered species list;
  • Reclassify a species from threatened to endangered, or from endangered to threatened; or
  • Revise a species’ critical habitat.

To the extent practicable, within 90 days after receiving a petition the Service is required to make a finding as to whether the petition presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.

A bright orange a yellow flowering plant.
Biologists determined the once at-risk bog asphodel (narthecium americanum) did not require federal protection. Photo by Kristen on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Substantial vs. not substantial findings

A 90-day finding on a species can have one of two outcomes: substantial and not substantial.


A substantial finding essentially indicates:

  1. The Service will take a closer look at the status of, and threats to, the petitioned species by initiating a status review, commonly referred to as a 12-month finding. At that point we solicit additional scientific and commercial information from all sources to inform our decision.
  2. The petitioned action (e.g., listing, delisting or reclassification) may be warranted because the petition provided enough information that would lead a reasonable person to believe so.

A positive 90-day finding does not indicate that the results from a 12-month status review will likewise be positive. The final determination of whether a petitioned action is warranted is not made until the Service has completed a thorough status review of the species.

Not substantial

A Not Substantial finding indicates the Service will take no further action on a species at this time because the petition does not provide the following minimum information:

  • A clearly indicated administrative measure recommended, and the scientific and any common name of the species involved;
  • A detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure describing, based on available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the species involved, as well as any threats faced by the species;
  • Information regarding the status of the species over all or a significant portion of its range;
  • Appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or letters from authorities, and maps. (If these are readily available on the web, only the references need to be provided.)
A turtle with a very sharp beak.
The alligator snapping turtle was petitioned for protection. Photo by Garry Tucker, USFWS.

How the Service makes a decision

When making a 90-day finding, we take the following materials into consideration:

  • Information contained in the petition;
  • Supporting information submitted with the petition;
  • Other readily available information in the our files prior to the date the petition was submitted.

We do not do any of the following when making a 90-day finding:

  • Conduct additional research, such as population surveys;
  • Subject the petition to rigorous critical review;
  • Solicit information from parties outside the Service.

Check out a graphic of demonstrating our listing process.


Timothy Merritt, Chief, Branch of Conservation and Classification
Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, GA, (404) 679-7082

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