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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 206 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.

USFWS Responds to Petitions Requesting Endangered or Threatened Status for Five Species that occur in Washington. On September 17, 2015, the USFWS responded to petitions that requested the listing of five species under the Endangered Species Act: Cascade torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton cascadae), Columbia torrent salamander (Rhyacotriton kezeri), northern bog lemming (Synaptomus borealis), tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), and tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata). The petitions had been filed between 2012 and 2015 by three separate organizations. USFWS found that the petitions presented substantial information that the petitioned actions may be warranted based on present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of the species habitat or range including habitat loss, and other factors. The anticipated publication date of the 12-month status review of each species is late 2016.

USFWS Responds to Petition Requesting Endangered Status for Northern Spotted Owl.  On April 10, 2015, the USFWS responded to a petition that requested that northern spotted owl be reclassified as endangered. The petition had been filed in 2012 by Environmental Protection Information Center. USFWS found that the petition presents substantial information that the petitioned action may be warranted based on these factors: (A) Present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of the species habitat or range including habitat loss and the decline of preferred prey species, northern flying squirrel and tree voles; (B) Disease or predation. Potential disease risks of West Nile Virus to spotted owls and predation from barred owls; (C)  Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (D) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence, including range-wide population declines, competition with barred owls

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.