The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires periodic reviews of species that are listed as threatened or endangered to ensure that the listing is still accurate.
Specifically, section 4(c)(2) of the ESA states that the Secretary shall:
- Conduct, at least once every five years, a review of all species included in a list.
Determine on the basis of such review whether any such species should:
Be removed from such list.
Be changed in status from an endangered species to a threatened species.
Be changed in status from a threatened species to an endangered species.
These reviews are known as "5-year reviews."
5-Year Review Recommendations
A 5-year review may result in a recommendation to reclassify or delist an animal or plant. The criteria for reclassification or delisting are based on reducing the five listing threat factors described in the species’ final listing rule and recovery plan. A species’ listing status can only be changed by the rulemaking process.
Species may be removed from the endangered or threatened species list for three reasons:
The species has recovered to such an extent that it no longer needs ESA protection.
The original information warranting listing has been shown to be incorrect, or new information suggests that the species is not actually endangered or threatened.
The species has become extinct.
A 5-year review may also result in a recommendation to maintain the species’ current classification status (i.e., threatened or endangered).
Guidance and Templates
NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a 5-Year Review Guidance document (PDF, 74 pages) to promote a consistent nationwide approach to 5-year reviews. The document also clarifies the scope and role of these reviews in relation to other ESA requirements.
The 5-year review can be as straightforward as gathering current information on a species and determining whether recovery plan criteria have been met. Some species do not have recovery plans or have recovery criteria that do not meet all current ESA requirements. In these cases, the 5-year review will analyze information available on the species relative to the definitions of “endangered” and “threatened” and in the context of the five ESA section 4(a)(1) factors.