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Endangered Species Act (ESA) and WSDOT

Northern Spotted Owl
Spotted Owl - Photo from USDA Forest Service

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To ensure that a proposed federal action is compliant with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and meets WSDOT Biological Assessment (BA) standards, a process of environmental evaluation, documentation, and review has been developed by WSDOT.

BA Author Qualifications


In June 2006, WSDOT began a qualification program for consultants who prepare biological assessments for the agency. The program involves attendance at required seminars, passing an examination, and meeting biological assessment quality standards defined by WSDOT.

Consultation Process

WSDOT's BA development and consultation process can be divided into six general phases:

Biological Assessment Content

The Endangered Species Act requires preparation of a BA for any major construction project with a federal nexus. WSDOT has developed specific standards and guidance on content of Biological Assessments prepared for the agency.

BA Guidance

WSDOT, in conjunction with USFWS, NMFS and FHWA, routinely develops guidance documents and protocols for addressing certain topics in Biological Assessments. The BA Guidance page provides a localized site to find all current and updated guidance documents on subjects such as stormwater, noise assessments and indirect effects and the WSDOT BA Preparation for Transportation Projects Manual.

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Templates & Protocols

Several protocols and templates are available to standardize elements of the consultation and are required as appendices within Biological Assessments for WSDOT projects.

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Species List/ESA Listing Information

Recent Changes in ESA Listings

ESA Listing Updates (pdf 223 kb) contains updated information on listing and delisting proposals, status of proposed critical habitat and protective regulations, 90-day petition findings and species undergoing 12-month status reviews for Washington State.

Oregon Spotted Frog Listed by USFWS. On August 29, 2014, the USFWS issued a final rule to list the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) as threatened. This final rule becomes effective September 29, 2014.  The critical habitat designation is expected later this year. Oregon spotted frogs are associated with slow-moving or still waters. In Washington, they are known from Whatcom, Skagit, Thurston, Skamania, and Klickitat counties.

Mazama Pocket Gopher Listed by USFWS.  On April 9, 2014, the USFWS issued a final rule to list four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) as threatened, and also designated critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS will also implement a 4(d) rule that exempts take associated with certain management activities that maintain or promote gopher habitat. This final rule becomes effective May 9, 2014. The four subspecies listed under this rule are: Olympia pocket gopher (T. m. pugetensis), Roy Prairie pocket gopher (T. m. glacialis), Tenino pocket gopher (T. m. tumuli), and Yelm pocket gopher (T. m. yelmensis).  The USFWS indicates where the type specimens for each subspecies were located (all locations are still occupied) and provides soil types that are associated with each subspecies. The critical habitat designation further informs the distribution of the subspecies. 

Final Listing of Two Plants in Washington. On December 20, 2013, following an extended public comment period, the USFWS affirmed its April 2013 decision to list Umtanum desert buckwheat (Eriogonum codium) and White Bluffs bladder-pod (Physaria tuplashensis) as threatened. Both species occupy narrow, linear bands on bluffs above and on opposite sides of the Columbia River along the Hanford Reach. In addition, critical habitat was designated for both species. Most critical habitat is located on federal lands.

Steller Sea Lion De-listed by NOAA Fisheries.  On November 4, 2013, NOAA Fisheries published a final rule delisting the eastern DPS of the Steller sea lion.  The rule takes effect December 4, 2013 and removes ESA protection for this DPS.


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