The Endangered Species Act (ESA) recognizes the necessity to respond immediately to emergencies and provide expedited consultation that allows Federal agencies to complete their critical missions in a timely manner while providing the protections afforded to listed species under the ESA.
Federal action agencies which fund, permit, or carry out activities that may affect threatened or endangered species, their critical habitat, or essential fish habitat, are required to consult with NOAA Fisheries regarding the potential impacts of their actions on these trust resources. Where emergency actions may affect listed species and/or their critical habitats, a Federal agency may not have the time for the administrative work required by normal consultation procedures. Emergency consultation expedites communication and allows agencies to incorporate endangered species concerns into their emergency response plans.
An emergency is a situation involving an act of God, disasters, casualties, national defense or security emergencies, etc., and includes response activities that must be taken to prevent imminent loss of human life or property. Predictable events, like those covered in Emergency Use Permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide applications, usually do not qualify as emergencies under the Section 7 regulations unless there is a significant unexpected human health risk.
Please see "Emergency Guidance for Hurricanes" for more on emergency consultations during hurricanes.
During any emergency, NOAA Fisheries' primary objective is to provide technical advice and recommendations, including Best Management Practices, for minimizing adverse effects to listed species during emergency response activities. During emergency events, the primary objective of the responding agency is to protect human life and property and this objective takes precedence if there is a conflict with protective measures for listed species under the ESA. The protection of ESA-listed species and designated critical habitat is warranted when it will not interfere with the emergency response to protect human life and property.
Endangered Species Act Emergency Response Process:
During any emergency response, the Federal agency will contact NOAA Fisheries by email as quickly as possible following the onset of the emergency. For Emergency Endangered Species Act Consultations, please contact us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org. Points of contact are Karla Reece (Karla.Reece@noaa.gov) for North Carolina to Texas and Melissa Alvarez (Melissa.Alvarez@noaa.gov) for the Florida Keys and the Caribbean.
During this initial contact, NOAA Fisheries will recommend actions that may be implemented to minimize the impacts to any listed species or critical habitat in the area. At the same time, NOAA Fisheries will provide the agency, within 48 hours, a written response detailing the protective procedures that were identified during the initial contact.
Once the emergency is under control, the action agency will evaluate the emergency consultation measures, identify any incidental take of a species or critical habitat, and initiate a post emergency consultation with NMFS.
NOAA Fisheries will prepare an after-the-fact biological opinion to cover any incidental take that occurred during the emergency response and document the final impacts to the ESA-listed species. If no take occurred, action agency should notify NOAA Fisheries and no further consultation is required.