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Threatened and Endangered Species. When Your Project Warrants Consultation. Introduction. Purpose To provide a consistent framework for designated NRCS field and State office staff to successfully consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS ). Objectives

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threatened and endangered species

Threatened and Endangered Species

When Your Project Warrants Consultation



To provide a consistent framework for designated NRCS field and State office staff to successfully consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).


  • To fulfill our our legal obligations to conserve protected species as directed by regulation and NRCS policy.
  • To facilitate an efficient process for conserving protected species.
  • To establish successful criteria for consulting with the USFWS.
  • To ensure our decisions are sound, well documented, and communicated throughout the organization.
laws and regs
Laws and Regs

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

  • Umbrella policy established to ensure federal agencies thoroughly evaluate impacts to the human environment.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

  • Our legal driver for protecting species—”Special Environmental Concerns.”
policy refresher
Policy Refresher

NRCS Policy

  • General Manual sets forth guidelines for how NRCS will comply with NEPA (e.g., 190-GM, Part 410, Subpart B, Section 410.22E)
  • NECH, 190-NECH, Part 610, Subpart C, Section 610.26: Overview of NRCS “Special Environmental Concerns,” and NRCS Policy: Endangered & Threatened Species (ESA) and Species of Concern.
  • CPA-52 is our tool to evaluate and document environmental affects associated with our actions.
nrcs policy
NRCS Policy

Protected Species and State’s Responsibilities:

  • 190-GM, Subpart B, Section 410.22F(6)(vi) directs the State Conservationist to “[w]ork with the appropriate regulatory entities to establish streamlined regulatory processes and minimize the need for site-specific consultation.”
      • For example, develop a Section 7, Programmatic Consultation (PC) with the Services
section 7 programmatic consultation
Section 7, Programmatic Consultation

Streamlined NRCS environmental evaluations (EE) by programmatically evaluating and determining effects for many species under a suite of disturbance categories.

Pre-determined “No Effect”, and some “May Effect” decisions that would otherwise prompt consultation with the USFWS.

State participation in the process also allowed for some streamlining of State-listed species; however, most were not evaluated.

section 7 programmatic consultation1
Section 7, Programmatic Consultation

So, the PC is an efficient and appropriate decision-making tool.

Nevertheless, the PC was no developed to cover all situations or all species.

  • Future consultations inevitable
need for action
Need For Action
  • Land uses have changed, often involving greater quantities of land.

For example, forested areas in Iowa are being manipulated at greater rates than were anticipated during the development of the PC.

  • A number of proposed actions exceed effects determinations (thresholds).
need for action1
Need For Action
  • Ironically, changes in scientific knowledge and capabilities suggest that the current effects determinations may prematurely trigger consultation.

For example, sinkhole and algific slopes, and brush and tree management related to grazing.

  • Perceived or actual workflow bottlenecks more likely.
  • The field has requested authority to become more directly involved, as was the case prior to the PC
how to proceed
How to Proceed?

FIRST: Be willing to decentralize the process

how to proceed1
How to Proceed?

Second: Establish a sound protocol

Competent Practitioners

  • Training and experience

Consistent Decision-Making

  • Planning guides, NRCS handbooks, decision trees, templates.


  • Develop a “consultation library” to transmit knowledge throughout the organization.
how to proceed2
How to Proceed?

Third: Designate and Collaborate

Designated field staff

  • ARCs, Area Biologists, Private-lands Biologists, people that “know stuff” or are willing to learn.

Notification to the State Office

  • State Conservationist is still on the hook and holds the State Biologist accountable for the overall program.
  • Notification on all correspondence facilitates communication.

Collaborate on big stuff

  • State Biologist is in a position to assist when things get complicated.
case study

Case Study

ESA Section 7

Programmatic Consultation

  • A USDA Program participant (Landowner) in Mahaska County wants to increase his forage capacity and quality for livestock grazing under an EQIP agreement.
  • The subject land consists of 30 acres of mature forest, pasture, and old–field that have been overcome by trees and brush.
  • The Landowner intends to conduct “woody habitat manipulation” to open the canopy during the Summer when has less constraints on his time. (MA, LAA)
  • In addition to avoiding all habitat trees (hickories and snags), he proposes to retain all trees >12” DBH. (Conservation Measure/Mitigation).
  • NRCS field staff conducted a site visit to assess habitat potential for the endangered Indiana bat. A second site visit was conducted after the initial assessment indicated a number of factors that could mitigate impacts currently viewed as May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect the Indiana bat.
      • Heterogeneous forest composition and structure
      • Clustering of habitat trees
  • The extent and timing of the proposal kicks this project out of consideration under the PC.
    • Field: Consult State Biologist—Oh No!!!
    • State Biologist: Work with field staff and landowner to reduce impacts OR consult with USFWS—Oh No!!!
  • Landowner—Must do the work in the Summer.
  • USFWS—Ok, but let’s conduct a survey to assist in determining presence/possible absence.
  • Landowner—liability?
  • USFWS—Ah Ha: Old forests are core habitat!
pc evolves
PC Evolves
  • The PC catagoricallydeclaires all forests containing snags and hickories; and which have >35% canopy cover, are not isolated, and proximate to water as protected habitat—nearly all wooded areas in Indiana bat counties?
  • The literature casts doubt on this interpretation.
  • Informal consultation between NRCS and USFWS results in greater clarification.
elements of a successful proposal
Elements of a Successful Proposal

Complete Project Description

Complete List of Affected Protected Species

What’s affected and How

Clear Depiction of Avoidance and Minimization

Substantiate Your Determination

Use of Species-Specific Information

consultation resources
Consultation Resources

PC Switchboard

  • Species lists
  • Links to a number of reference sites

Consultation Library (state-wide shared drive)

  • Previous decisions are useful in future cases.

Planning guides (NatureServe)

  • Meta-analysis of what is known about a species.

NRCS handbooks

  • GM
  • NECH
  • NPPH
  • Meta-Analysis of research conducted on several thousand species.
  • Describes a number of factors critical the understanding and management of species.
    • Ecology and Life History
    • Management Consideration
    • Separation Distances
  • Ongoing effort as not all is known, yet.
  • Primary basis for “Planning Guides.”
    • Fact sheets are informational, but often too simplistic for NRCS purposes.
thank you
Thank You!