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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 and Guidance

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.  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 some are required within Biological Assessments for WSDOT projects.

Species List/ESA Listing Information

Recent Changes in ESA Listings

ESA Listing Updates (pdf 56 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.

Canary Rockfish Delisted.  On January 23, 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule to delist the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin distinct population segment (DPS) of canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) under the Endangered Species Act (CFR Vol 82 NO 13 7711-7731). In the same announcement, the NMFS also removed designated critical habitat for canary rockfish. The rule goes into effect March 24, 2017.

The delisting is based on more recent genetic work that shows that the inland basin Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish population does not meet the criteria for a valid DPS, since canary rockfish in Puget Sound/Georgia Basin are not genetically distinguishable from the larger population on the Pacific Coast. The Pacific Coast population was declared overfished in 2000, but the stock was determined to be rebuilt in 2015.  NMFS is also removing designated critical habitat for canary rockfish.  The critical habitat designation for the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio DPSs remains in place.  The area removed as designated critical habitat for canary rockfish will continue to be designated critical habitat for bocaccio and, thus, there will be no change to the spatial area that was originally designated.