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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 224 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 Designates Critical Habitat for Three Rockfish Species.  The final designation of critical habitat was announced on November 13, 2014 for Georgia Basin/Puget Sound DPS yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish, both listed as threatened, and bocaccio, listed as endangered. The designation becomes effective February 15, 2015. The critical habitat listing includes 590 square miles of nearshore habitat for canary rockfish and bocaccio, and 414 square miles of deepwater habitat for all three species. Nearshore areas include kelp forests important for the growth and survival of juvenile rockfish. Deeper waters are used for shelter, food and reproduction by adults.

Fisher Proposed for Listing by USFWS.  On October 7, 2014, the USFWS proposed to list the West Coast distinct population segment (DPS) of the fisher (Pekania pennanti) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS will issue a final rule about 1 year from now. No critical habitat was proposed at this time. The fisher was listed as state endangered in Washington in 1998, and there is a state recovery plan.

Western DPS Yellow-billed Cuckoo Listed by USFWS. On October 3, 2014, the USFWS issued a final rule to list the western DPS yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) as threatened. The critical habitat designation is expected later this year, but no critical habitat has been proposed in Washington. Yellow-billed cuckoos are associated with large stands of mature riparian forest. The species is considered rare in Washington.

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. 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.