USDA Forest Service: Eastern Region
Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species
What laws and policy direct the
Forest Service Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species Program
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires federal agencies to ". . . implement a program to conserve fish, wildlife and plants . . . to insure their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat." The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) requires National Forests to maintain viable populations of "native and desired nonnative vertebrate species . . . well distributed in the planning area."
The Secretary of Agriculture's Policy on Fish and Wildlife (9500-4) directs the Forest Service to "manage habitats for all native and desired nonnative plants, fish and wildlife species to maintain viable populations of each species; identify and recover threatened and endangered plant and animal species" and to avoid actions "which may cause species to become threatened or endangered."
Forest Service Sensitive Species Policy (FSM 2670.32) calls National Forests to assist states in achieving conservation goals for endemic species; to complete biological evaluations of programs and activities; avoid and minimize impacts to species with viability concerns; analyze significance of adverse effects on populations or habitat; and coordinate with states, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
The Forest Service Manual (2670.15) further defines Sensitive Species as "those plant and animal species identified by a Regional Forester for which population viability is a concern as evidenced by significant current or predicted downward trend in numbers or density" and..."habitat capability that would reduce a species existing distribution."
What is the difference between
endangered, threatened, and sensitive species?
Endangered species are those in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant part of their range.
Threatened species are those likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout or in a significant part of its range.
Sensitive species in the Forest Service are identified by Regional Foresters, aimed to avoid trends toward federal listing and to maintain viability.
What is a Regional Forester Sensitive Species List?
Regional Threatened and Endangered Species include those listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In addition, Regional Foresters are assigned the responsibility of identifying Sensitive Species for each Region.
The Forest Service Manual (2670.44) suggests that potential Sensitive Species include USFWS and NMFS candidate species, state lists of endangered, threatened, rare, endemic, unique or vanishing species, and species identified from other sources as needed.
How is the Regional Forester Sensitive Species List developed?
Each Region of the Forest Service identifies Sensitive Species Criteria to designate Regional Forester Sensitive Species. The Eastern Region (R9) initiated its Sensitive Species List in 1990 and last updated it in 1994 on February 29, 2000. Forest Service Biologists, Botanists and Ecologists screen potential sensitive species using a Risk Evaluation process. The public, other agencies and organizations are involved in reviewing the updated criteria and proposed lists.
What are the Criteria for the Eastern Region Regional Forester Sensitive Species?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service candidates for Threatened and Endangered species listing and species delisted in the last five years, The Nature Conservancy G1-G3, T1-T3 and N1-N3 are automatically considered Sensitive.
State Threatened and Endangered, Natural Heritage Program S1 and S2 species and species at risk on National Forests are screened using a Risk Evaluation addressing abundance, distribution, population trends, habitat integrity and population vulnerability.
Species must also have at least one documented occurrence within the proclamation boundary of an Eastern Region National Forest and be recognized as a valid species by taxonomic experts.
Why use proclamation boundaries as a limit for listing species?
While some have suggested using a buffer or ecological boundaries, the Region believes that species should be documented within the proclamation boundary to be considered Sensitive. If species occurring in similar habitats outside the forest that meet Sensitive Species Criteria are documented within the forest, they may be added to the list.
How are endangered, threatened and sensitive species treated differently than other species?
While most species are provided for by managing diverse habitats, Endangered, Threatened and Sensitive Species receive specific Biological Evaluations for the effects of management activities on National Forest system land. Conservation measures are incorporated for endangered, threatened and sensitive species and the adverse effects of management activities are either eliminated or mitigated .
How many threatened, endangered and sensitive species are there in the Eastern Region?
Approximately 650 species are designated as "Sensitive" within the Eastern Region. The number of Regional Forester Sensitive Species varies by forest as do ecological conditions. The range is approximately 27 species on the Midewin Tall Grass Prairie to approximately 127 species on the Mark Twain National Forest.
In other regions the range is 27 in the Alaska Region (R10) to 660 in the Southern Region (R8).
How can I learn more?
Eastern Region Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species Lists are posted at www.fs.fed.us/r9/wildlife/tes/ click on Eastern Region Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species Program.