Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region
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Endangered Species Act Consultation
 
One of the main roles of the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office (Yreka FWO) is consultation with other Federal agencies on projects that may affect species or critical habitat listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This is important because all federal agencies, not just the Fish and Wildlife Service, have a responsibility to conserve listed species and critical habitat.  Section 7. (a) (2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 states that:

“Each Federal agency shall, in consultation with and with the assistance of the
Secretary, insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species……”

The Yreka FWO, along with the Klamath Falls and Arcata Fish and Wildlife Offices, consult with other Federal agencies in the Klamath Basin.

The Klamath Basin

So what exactly is the consultation process?  If a federal agency funds, authorizes or proposes a project or an action, that agency carrying out that action is required to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to ensure that the project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.

Before requesting consultation, the action agency determines whether or not the project may affect the listed species or critical habitat.  If the project effects are relatively minor – that is, a project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect a listed species or critical habitat – consultation is informal.  The action agency submits a written request for informal consultation.  If FWS agrees with the action agency’s determination, then informal consultation concludes with the FWS issuing a letter of concurrence. 

If the action agency determines that a project is likely to adversely affect a listed species or critical habitat, then formal consultation is required, and the action agency submits a written request for formal consultation to FWS.  During formal consultation, the FWS analyzes the project to determine if the project is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.  The results of the analysis are explained in a document called a “biological opinion.”  In fulfilling these requirements, each agency must use the best scientific and commercial data available.

The biological opinion may include authorization for incidental take of listed species when the proposed action may cause harm or harass a listed species, recognizing that such harm or harassment is not the purpose of an otherwise lawful activity.  It may also include “terms and conditions” that are intended to reduce the impact of the harm or harassment.  The action agency is required to implement such terms and conditions.

If it is determined that the proposed action may jeopardize the listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, then the FWS works closely with the action agency to identify reasonable and prudent alternatives that would avoid such effects.  In that case, reasonable and prudent alternatives would be included in the biological opinion and the action agency would be required to implement such reasonable and prudent alternatives in order to implement the proposed action.

Agencies that regularly consult with the Yreka FWO include:   U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Streamlined Consultation

Since 1995 the Yreka FWO has been the point of contact for ESA consultation with the Klamath National Forest (KNF).  The two agencies work together to implement an approach to consultation called “streamlined consultation.”  The most important benefit of streamlined consultation is that it encourages collaboration between the two agencies and fosters an awareness of the shared responsibility in conservation of threatened and endangered species. 

Streamlined consultation is different from typical consultation in several ways.  During streamlined consultation, the Yreka FWO gets involved early in the project planning process.  We work with the KNF to identify potential impacts so that project adjustments can be made up front, with minimal cost to the project budget or timeline.  This collaborative approach provides an opportunity to build in project design features that minimize impacts to listed species and critical habitat.  In cases where adverse effects cannot be avoided, the project planning team will likely know, in advance, what terms and conditions will be placed on the project as a result of formal consultation.  This helps the action agency because it avoids late surprises.

Another feature of streamlined consultation is the formation of a local consultation team. Yreka FWO and KNF biologists meet regularly, as part of a consultation team, to make adjustments to the process as new information becomes available.  We work to reach agreement on criteria that typically would result in “no effect”, “not likely to adversely affect”, and “likely to adversely affect” determinations for listed species and critical habitat to be used during project-level effects analysis.  Streamlined consultation is an efficient, collaborative approach to this important part of species conservation.

For more general information on Section 7 consultation, please visit the FWS National website

For more information on Section 7, formal consultation, please see the  ESA Section 7 Consultation Handbook.