Terminology and Abbreviations Glossery


ESA – Endangered Species Act of 1973; the law that mandates protection for threatened and endangered plants and animals.

FWS – United States Fish and Wildlife Service (an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior).

HCP – Habitat Conservation Plan (see definition in Terminology section).

ITP – Incidental Take Provision (see definition in Terminology section).

NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce).


Anadromous – Species of fish that inhabit both freshwater and saltwater.

Biological Assessment – If an agency is proposing a land management project, after checking with the FWS, this agency must outline the possible impacts to listed species within the project area. This assessment is reviewed by the FWS to determine if a formal consultation is warranted.

Biological Opinion – A product of the Formal Consultation process; it determines whether a project would jeopardize a listed species existence. If a species is in jeopardy, the FWS must suggest “reasonable and prudent alternatives” in this Biological Opinion.

Candidate Species – species for which substantial information is available to support a listing proposal, but for which lack of funding and personnel preclude listing. The Secretary of the Interior is required to publish “Notice of Review” which lists the status of candidate species.

Critical Habitat – Geographic area containing physical or biological features essential to the conservation of a listed species or an area that may require special management considerations or protection. The agency may decline to designate critical habitat if it finds that it is not “prudent” or “determinable” (if the habitat is not determinable, an agency has an additional year to determine critical habitat). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to designate critical habitat for more than 80 percent of all listed species.

Endangered Species – classification of a plant or animal species that is in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Endangered Species Committee – Commonly called the “God Squad”, this committee is made up of seven members (Secretaries of the Agriculture, Army, and Interior, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and one individual from the affected state). Five of these members must determine if an action, which will jeopardize a listed species, is of regional or national importance and that the benefits of the action clearly outweigh the benefits of conserving the species and that there are no reasonable and prudent alternatives to the action.

Formal Consultation – Formal process in which the FWS examines the impacts of a project on listed species.

Habitat Conservation Plan – A plan which outlines the impact of a listed species living within a project area, the steps taken to mitigate the project’s impacts and the funding that will be available to implement these measures, alternatives to the project and why they were not adopted, and any other measures that the FWS has determined to be necessary for the plan.

Harm – A significant destruction of a species’ habitat resulting in death or injury.

Incidental Take Provision – An exception to the strict take provision in the ESA which is issued after a Habitat Conservation Plan has been approved and it has been determined that any take of a listed species would be unintentional.

Notice of Review – Periodic review by the Secretary of the Interior that examines the status of candidate species.

Proposed Rule – Listing in the Federal Register that expresses an agency’s intent to list a species, after agency and public review, for protection under the provisions of the ESA.

Range – location of where a species naturally or historically occurs.

Recovery Plan – A plan based in science that works toward a goal of delisting a threatened or endangered species. It is the product of a Recovery Team’s work.

Recovery Team – Group of government and non-government scientists dedicated to formulating the best plan for recovering populations of threatened and endangered species.

Taking – A taking is considered to be any activity that intentionally “harasses, harms, pursues, hunts, shoots, wounds, kills, traps, captures, or collects” threatened or endangered animals.

Threatened Species – classification of a plant or animal species that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Warranted but Precluded – The agency lacks the funding to act upon the “Proposed Rule” and so the species is classified in the “Notice of Review” as a candidate species.

Warranted Listing – This requires the agency to publish a “Proposed Rule” and list a candidate species as either threatened or endangered within 12 months of this “Proposed Rule”.

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