The Endangered Species Act recognizes the need to respond immediately to emergencies. We expeditiously process emergency consultations so Federal agencies can complete their critical missions in a timely manner while still providing the protections afforded to listed species and critical habitat under the ESA.
Where emergency actions are required that 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 under non-emergency conditions. Emergency consultation allows rapid communication between agencies and provides the Federal agency the ability 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.
During any emergency, NOAA Fisheries’ primary objective is to provide technical assistance and recommendations for minimizing adverse effects to listed species during the 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:
Step 1 - Initiating Contact
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 or call the main Protected Resources Division phone number at (978) 281-9328.
Step 2 - NOAA Fisheries Recommendations
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 during the emergency response. The Federal action agency should implement these protective mechanisms if practical. NOAA Fisheries will also provide the agency, within 48 hours, a written response detailing the protective procedures that were identified during the initial contact.
Step 3 - NOAA Fisheries Evaluation
NOAA Fisheries will continue to evaluate the emergency. If this evaluation indicates that the emergency response procedures may result in jeopardy/adverse modification, and no means of reducing or avoiding this impact are available, NOAA Fisheries will advise the responding agency of this and document this conclusion. The action agency will not stop or delay their emergency response because of this notification. In such a situation, the Federal action agency and NOAA Fisheries will discuss actions to remediate the effects following conclusion of the emergency.
Step 4 - Emergency Over
Once the emergency is under control, the Federal 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 NOAA Fisheries.
Step 5 - Consultation Completed
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 and critical habitat. If no take occurred, the action agency should notify NOAA Fisheries to discuss if further consultation is required.