Species habitat assessment & effect determination guidance

Use the information below to supplement Chapter 13: Effect Determination Guidance of the Biological Assessment (BA) preparation manual.

Marbled Murrelet

Day time work within or adjacent to marbled murrelet habitat during the nesting season may only occur during the limited operating period (LOP) of two hours after sunrise to two hours before sunset. Contact HQ Fish and Wildlife program if your project has night work or daytime and nighttime work. The marbled murrelet nesting season in Washington is defined as the period from April 1 to September 23.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) bases its definition of marbled murrelet nesting habitat on the presence of potential nest platforms. A site has suitable nesting habitat if a platform tree is within a minimum 5-acre contiguous conifer-dominated stand within the project analysis area, has trees that are greater than or equal to 15 inches diameter at breast height (dbh), and has at least one platform that is a minimum of 4 inches wide a minimum of 33 feet above the ground. Use the Guidance for Identifying Marbled Murrelet Nest Trees in Washington State (pdf 385 kb) for more information to help identify nesting habitat and platform trees.

In 2015, the USFWS issued a programmatic Biological Opinion (BO) for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) activities. The BO establishes harassment/injury distances for noise-generating activities specific to marbled murrelets that replaces the former 92 dBA threshold with distance thresholds based on the activity. Use the BO standard threshold distances described in Marbled Murrelet Site Evaluation and Effect Determination Guidance (pdf 786 kb) as a tool to aid in making effect determinations.

Northern Spotted Owl

In 2015, the USFWS issued a programmatic BO for WSDOT activities. The BO establishes harassment/injury distances for noise-generating activities specific to northern spotted owls that replaces the former 92 dBA threshold with distance thresholds based on the activity. Use the BO standard threshold distances described in Spotted Owl Site Evaluation and Effect Determination Guidance (pdf 1.14 mb) as a tool to aid in making effect determinations.

Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Use the USFWS draft Interim Consultation Guidance for Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo (pdf 514 kb) to assist in evaluating suitable habitat in Washington.

Oregon Spotted Frog habitat suitability guidance

In 2015, the USFWS issued a programmatic BO for WSDOT activities. The BO includes habitat suitability assessment guidance for Oregon spotted frog. Use this guidance as a tool in making Oregon spotted frog effect determinations.

Listed plants consultation guidance

Under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), there are no federal prohibitions for the take of listed plants on nonfederal lands unless the taking of those plants is in violation of state or federal law.

A federal permit is required for the removal/possession of listed plants from areas under federal jurisdiction, such as projects on federal lands. An example would be moving a listed plant at risk from a WSDOT project on U.S. Forest Service land.

Types of permits include:

  • Permit(s) for endangered plants:
    • 50 CFR Section 17.62 – Permits for scientific purposes or for the enhancement of propagation or survival
    • 50 CFR Section 17.63 – Economic hardship permits
    • Seeds of endangered plants require permits to be imported or exported.
  • Permit(s) for threatened plants:
    • 50 CFR Section 17.72 – Scientific purposes, the enhancement of the propagation or survival of threatened species, economic hardship, botanical or horticultural exhibition, educational purposes, or other activities consistent with the purposes and policy of the ESA.
    • Seeds of threatened plants require permits if the seed came from wild plants, but do not require permits if the seeds are from artificially propagated plants. 

Under Section 7 of the ESA, any work with a federal nexus that could affect listed plants must consult with USFWS. When writing a BA, make the effect determination at the individual level. As part of the consultation, the USFWS makes a jeopardy determination at the species level.

It is important to keep in mind that impacts to an individual plant or population could result in jeopardy to the species. This is possible for plants with small population size, such as showy stickseed.

For help on identification of plant species and their habitats, use the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Washington developed through a cooperative effort between several state and federal agencies.