ESA Streamlining Tools

Image of black-footed ferrets

Interagency Consultation & Biological Assessments

Best Available Scientific Information

"Streamlining" ESA section 7 interagency consultations includes ensuring that biological assessments utilize the best available scientific information (BASI) on ESA species and local interagency personnel are utilizing the same science. Current BASI can help focus effects analyses on the things that are of most concern to species, such as known limiting factors, stressors, and threats that can then be evaluated in the context of proposed projects and focusing on those aspects of project implementation that may represent the effect "triggers." Local personnel should be routinely sharing new information with their interagency colleagues as they become aware of recent scientific articles, reports, and other information sources about ESA species. Local information in agency files and online agency library resources can also be important sources of information to inform effects analyses. Additionally, in most cases a few links like those below take the user to reports containing some of the best consolidated scientific information on ESA species and habitats to inform project planning, project effects analyses, and section 7 consultations for these species.

Start here first for the BASI for a particular species. A largely one-stop shop for best available information on species and critical habitats. Type in a species name in the search box on the homepage and a species profile page appears containing links to all documents published by the USFWS in the Federal Register for that species, including proposed and final listing and critical habitat rules, 5-year status reviews, and recovery plans.

Here are some other useful quick links in and outside of ECOS:

This page identifies in one location all species with approved recovery plans and provides links to those plans.

This page contains by species links to the ECOS profile page for the species, the homepage for the USFWS's lead region for the Critical Habitat rule, the CH rule, and the spatial data (shapefiles) for proposed and final critical habitat for download.

Links to all completed Species Status Assessments (SSAs) available from the USFWS. These assessments are based on the best available scientific and commercial information regarding life history, biology, habitat needs, and current and future vulnerabilities. Development of SSAs is ongoing and this page will continue to be updated as additional final reports become available. For more background on SSAs, view this overview of the SSA process by Heather Bell.

Biological Assessment Guidebook

(Wrigley, NPS)

Interagency Consultation Guidance and Tools

(Laye, USFWS)

  • Deconstructing an action - a method to develop more efficient, transparent, and defensible Biological Assessments and Biological Opinions  *New*

         Related - For an example of how the principles discussed in this guidance paper can be applied to additional section 7 streamlining tools, see the mountain plover screen materials at the bottom of this webpage.

Section 7 Applicants

USFWS Guidance

USFS Guidance

BLM Guidance

Emergency Section 7 Consultations

Wyoming Emergency Consultation Letter

Each year, the Wyoming Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sends out a helpful guidance letter that summarizes the emergency section 7 consultation procedures and provides proactive conservation measures to manage fire suppression and BAER effects to federally-protected species and also provides contact information for key interagency contacts during and after an emergency event as defined under the regulations. While the letter is geared to agencies in Wyoming, much of the procedural guidance it provides universally applies across federal agencies wherever fire management and BAER activities overlap federally-protected species.


Alternative Approaches to Section 7

USFWS Guidance

Programmatic Consultations

         Related: See also the Section 7(a)(1) materials on the "BAs, BOs, and Other Examples" page.

Batched Project Consultations (examples)

“Batched” consultation is not referred to in the section 7 regulations, but is another option for achieving compliance on multiple projects of a similar nature, type of activity, or single species in one consultation, Biological Assessment, and concurrence and/or Biological Opinion. This can be another efficient and effective approach for the agencies in meeting ESA section 7 requirements on projects affecting listed species. The consultation documents from batched consultations successfully completed are provided as-is and as learning tools for our field personnel.

Example #1 - Grizzly Bear, Shoshone NF  *New*

In response to the court-ordered re-listing of the Yellowstone grizzly bear in 2018, the Shoshone NF requested reinitiation of consultation with the FWS's Wyoming Field Office on 5 projects on the forest that had not begun or been completed at the time of re-listing, i.e. ongoing actions.

Example #2 - Canada Lynx, Multiple NFs

In 2002, the courts determined for a temporary period that any actions subject to consultation that may affect the Canada lynx (including "not likely to adversely affect") required formal consultation and preparation of a biological opinion. In response to the situation, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the next 6 months conducted three batched consultations on "high priority" projects.

Project Screens

At the time the mountain plover was proposed for ESA listing, the Wyoming Level 2 team directed the RCTT to develop plover project evaluation screens. While the screens were in development, the USFWS provided notice declining to finalize a listing rule for the mountain plover. However, because the plover continued to be a designated sensitive species for the Forest Service and BLM, the Level 2 team asked the RCTT to finalize the screens as a project planning and evaluation tool. While their role changed for the agencies based on the ESA status change for the mountain plover, they remain another example of how to build an interagency tool that can "streamline" agency processes and compliance for land management projects.

         Related: The interagency RCTT used an "effects determination criteria" process to develop the mountain plover screens for Wyoming, based on a process originally conceived as an interagency tool in the PNW. This involved consulting BLM oil & gas experts to identify and deconstruct activities associated with different forms of O&G exploration and development. Then a mountain plover species expert was brought in to work with the RCTT to identify risks and effects associated with those activities. The effects determination criteria process is presented in the powerpoint below, followed by the oil & gas activity descriptions (which were updated by the USFS in 2011). These activity descriptions are still useful today and could be used in developing other ESA section 7 streamlining tools for energy development. They and the overall approach can also be used as a template for applying to other land management activities and species.