Endangered Species Act and Biological Assessments

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that individuals and projects avoid “take” of listed endangered and threatened species and their protected habitats. At the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), we evaluate all of our projects and complete ESA documentation as required.

If a project has a federal nexus (the project receives federal funding, a federal permit, or occurs on federal land) and has an effect on a listed species or habitat, the project must meet the requirements of Section 7 of the act and complete an ESA consultation. Consultation may occur with either National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The Biological Assessment (BA) preparation manual guides BA authors through the documentation process. Also find supplemental information and templates on this page.

To author a BA or no effect determination for WSDOT, you must be a qualified BA author as described on the Biological Assessment author qualification and training page.

Determine if your project requires a BA

Follow these steps to determine if your project may result in effects to listed species or their critical habitat and determine the appropriate documentation:

  1. Review the species status and listing information below to determine which listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat may be present in your project’s vicinity.
  2. If one or more listed species or their critical habitat may be present in your project's vicinity, complete an analysis to determine if your project may affect the species.
  3. If your project will not affect any listed species or protected habitats, prepare a no effect determination using one of the templates below.
  4. If your project may affect one or more listed species or protected habitats and has a federal nexus, you will need to prepare a BA. Follow the WSDOT BA preparation manual and use the required BA template.
  5. If your project may affect a species or protected habitat, but does not have a federal nexus, contact the Fish & Wildlife Program Manager.

Species status and listing

Review the information below to determine which listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat may be present in your project’s vicinity. 

No effect determination templates

BA authors should use these templates to document a no effect determination on listed species and critical habitats. Consultants should speak with their WSDOT biology contact for assistance in determining which no effect documentation to use.

WSDOT updates these templates as needed. Check this webpage for the most current version of the template prior to each use.

  • No effect (NE) letter template (doc 56 kb) – For projects that result in a no effect determination and require minimal documentation, such as projects with no new impervious surface, no species use of the action area, or no potential indirect effects, use this short (2-4 pages) letter format. To ensure that all the required information is included, use the NE letter template in conjunction with the NE letter checklist (doc 44 kb). Consultants should provide the NE letter to WSDOT in an electronic form for final formatting and signature. Consultants do not submit no effect projects to the federal action agency or other authorities.
  • NE assessment template (doc 56 kb) – For projects that result in a no effect determination but require additional documentation and analysis to support the NE call, such as projects with new impervious surface (i.e., document lack of stormwater impacts), projects with complicated action areas, or projects that require completion of a detailed indirect effects analysis, complete the NE assessment template. The NE assessment contains a 5-10 page report and appendices.
    • To remove or display hidden text when using this template, click on File on the top left side of the Word document.
    • Scroll down to the bottom and click on the Options button.
    • When the Word Options screen comes up, click on the Display button on the left. In this screen, it is possible to either check or uncheck the option to print hidden text.
Use the flow charts and information on this page to determine when reinitiation or information update is needed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultation with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Use the Biological Assessment (BA) preparation manual, template, and review checklist for individual Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations. Make sure you always use the latest version of these documents. 

BA Manual

Refer to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) BA preparation manual for specific standards and guidance on BA content. Information you need to prepare a BA is listed by chapter below. Also find links to additional information to supplement some manual chapters.

Find news about recent changes in ESA listings from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.
Information, in addition to Chapter 7: Construction Noise Impact Assessment of the Biological Assessment (BA) preparation manual, to assess noise impacts to marine mammals, marbled murrelets, and fish
Information to supplement Chapter 13: Effect Determination Guidance of the Biological Assessment (BA) preparation manual.
Information on assessing stormwater effects