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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.


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.


Species List/ESA Listing Information

Recent Changes in ESA Listings

ESA Listing Updates (pdf 209 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.

NMFS Proposes to Delist Canary Rockfish.  On July 6, 2016, the NMFS proposed to remove canary rockfish from the list of species protected under ESA, as well as remove designated critical habitat for the species. The proposed change is the result of new genetic data that were collected and analyzed as part of a 5-year review for the three listed rockfish species.  The data indicate that Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish were not genetically different from the coastal canary rockfish. Following receipt of public comments, NMFS will make a final decision in mid-2017.

USFWS Designates Critical Habitat for Oregon Spotted Frog.  On May 11, 2016, the USFWS issued a final rule to designate critical habitat for the Oregon spotted frog, which becomes effective June 10, 2016. In the final rule, the USFWS designated a total of 65,038 acres and 20.3 river miles of critical habitat in Washington and Oregon, a reduction of 3,463 acres and 3.2 river miles from the proposed rule. The primary change in Washington State was revising critical habitat Unit 1 in Whatcom County by removing Swift Creek and the Sumas River downstream from the confluence with Swift Creek (a reduction of 137 acres and 3.2 river miles from the proposed rule). All designated critical habitat units are known to be occupied at the time the species was listed in 2014

USFWS Withdraws Proposed Rule to List West Coast DPS of Fisher.
On April 18, 2016, the USFWS withdrew the proposed rule to list the West Coast Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of fisher as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS found the best scientific and commercial data available indicate that the West Coast DPS of fisher does not meet the statutory definition of an endangered or threatened species because the stressors potentially impacting the DPS and its habitat are not of sufficient magnitude, scope, or imminence to indicate that the DPS is in danger of extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future.

NMFS Designates Critical Habitat for Lower Columbia River Coho Salmon and Puget Sound Steelhead. On February 24, 2016, the NMFS issued a final rule to designate critical habitat for Lower Columbia River (LCR) coho and Puget Sound (PS) steelhead. The final rule became effective March 25, 2016. Proposed critical habitats for these species were first published in January 2013. The designation for LCR coho critical habitat includes 2,300 miles of freshwater and estuarine habitats in Washington and Oregon. The specific areas designated for Puget Sound steelhead include approximately 2,031 miles of freshwater and estuarine habitat in Puget Sound. The physical and biological features necessary for conservation (formerly called primary constituent elements) for both of these critical habitats remain unchanged from the proposed rule.