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Species of Concern

Identify Which Species Call Your Project 'Home' with Transect

What does 'Species of Concern' mean?

Species of Concern is a term used by a lot of different conservation and regulatory groups in different ways. The lead federal species protection agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, defines Species of Concern as an informal term that refers to those species which might be in need of concentrated conservation actions.

Transect uses this term similarly: Species of Concern are those species that are in need of some additional action on a project site. The additional action might be a habitat assessment, a presence/absence survey, or a permit. 

Because there are federal and state laws that protect sensitive species, and those laws often trigger lengthly permitting timelines, it is important to know as soon as possible if there are any species of concern on your proposed project. 

 

Centrocercus_urophasianus_USFWS-1
Greater Sage-grouse
State Protected
RPBBonMonardaByKimMitchellUSFWS
Rusty patched bumble-bee
Federally Protected
Suwanee_County_FL_Pine_Snake_glenn_bartolotti1
Florida Pine Snake
State Protected
Ocelot_JoãoCarlosMedau_wikicommons
Ocelot
Federally Protected

What Regulations Protect Species of Concern?

Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act is the primary federal regulation that protects sensitive plant and animal species in the U.S. The Endangered Species Act makes "take" of certain listed species illegal. "Take" is defined as any type of harassment, harm, wounding, or pursuit, as well as killing, capturing, or collecting. The definition of "take" is not limited to purposeful “take” though. “Take” also includes “incidental take," which are those actions that may harm or kill a federally-listed species as part of an otherwise lawful activity. Examples of “incidental take” include disruption of bird nests from tree removal, harm to fish from stormwater runoff, and collision with bats from wind turbines.

Learn more about the Endangered Species Act here >>

State and Local Regulations

For the majority of states, incidental take is only prohibited for federally-protected species. However, many states also have a state regulation that requires a permit for impacts to state-protected species. A sample of the states with their own species permits include Illinois, New York, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Kansas, Utah, and Vermont (among others).

Additionally, state wildlife agencies often comment on impacts to state-listed species for projects that are funded or sponsored by a state or federal agency. Typically these comments do not lead to additional permitting, but will need to be addressed - thus extending the project timeline if not properly anticipated.

Learn more about State and Local Regulations in Transect here >>

How to Identify Species of Concern Near You

Whether you’re laying new infrastructure, planning out a new commercial development site, or building a new cell tower, identifying species of concern is a key consideration in project budget, timeline, and footprint planning.

Here are some ways you can identify species of concern near you:
  1. Use the USFWS IPAC Tool: The US Fish and Wildlife Service provides a tool that allows you to search for species that may occur in your project, which you can access here. IPAC uses general range data in its analysis, and the results typically include many more species than may actually occur.

  2. Use Transect’s Species of Concern analysis: Explore species of concern specific to your project location. Transect Reports evaluate many different data resolutions, from county ranges to individual element occurrences, and compare them with onsite habitat characteristics to determine the potential for a species of concern to occur within a project. Transect’s database has the most up-to-date information and profiles for species of concern. Or, explore your potential project in Transect Vision to quickly find and map species hotspots near you.

  3. Use the Center for Biological Diversity’s Map: Get a list of species of concern by county with the map here.

  4. Explore the WWF’s Endangered Species List: This resource won’t help you see what species of concern are near you, but you will be able to find interesting species profiles, photographs, and status information.

Looking for More?

Explore the Bald and Golden Eagle & Migratory Bird Treaty Acts here >>

Environmental Checklist (screenshot)

Don't let your project get derailed...

Non-compliance with federal and state environmental laws can have serious consequences to your project. The potential risks to your project include project termination, delays, fines, civil and/or criminal penalties, notice of violation on the property title, or mitigation.

Use our Free Environmental Due Diligence Checklist to make sure your project runs on-time and on budget by knowing exactly what kind of environmental issues might affect your budget, footprint, or schedule.

Download Transect's Environmental Due Diligence Checklist Here

What Species Permit Do I Need?

Under the Endangered Species Act, there are two ways to get a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for project impacts to federally-protected species. The one that your project will use is completely dependent on a very nuancical regulatory mechanism (the presence of a federal nexus or not), but we'll try to make it easy to understand.  Below are the two permit options available to any project that is likely to effect federally-protected species:

  1. Section 7 Consultation: This technically isn't a permit, but it looks and feels like one. If your project requires any other federal permit, like a Clean Water Act section 404 permit or NEPA environmental review, section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires the federal permitting agency to ensure their action does not adversely affect protected species. Therefore, the federal permitting agency is both required and motivated to help drive the section 7 consultation process with USFWS.  Section 7 consultation is always the preferred method for addressing effects to federally-protected species because: 1. the federal action agency is driving the process (so USFWS tends to be more responsive), and 2. there is an established timeline to complete consultation, so you can better estimate your project schedule (generally within 135 days of consultation initiation, though the comment resolution process is a common culprit for extending this timeline). 

  2. Section 10(a)(1)(b) Individual Permit: A section 10(a)(1)(b) permit is required for projects that will impact protected species but that don't have a federal nexus to access the section 7 consultation process. This process has no established timeline and is known to extend 24 months or beyond.  A section 10 permit requires public review and comment, as well as preparation of an in-depth Habitat Conservation Plan. 

Get more Endangered Species Act guidance here >>

State species permits vary from state to state. Want to know if your project has species of concern and is subject to a state species permit? Transect can help. Get a species of concern analysis as well as site-specific permits, recommendations, timelines, and next steps for your project - for free!

“The level of information is fantastic."
- Forefront Power

 

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