Endangered Species Overview

What is the Endangered Species Act?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 protects threatened and endangered species by preserving the ecosystems in which they live.  The U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), collectively known as “the Services,” share the responsibility for administering the Act. 

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 aims to protect such species by prohibiting anyone from “harming” or “taking” endangered species, and it extends similar protections to threatened species. Further, it requires all federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of those species.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) administer the ESA for all threatened and endangered species.  NMFS generally has jurisdiction over marine species, and USFWS has jurisdiction over all other listed species.  These agencies are responsible for identification and listing of species as threatened or endangered, designation of critical habitat, development of species-specific recovery plans, cooperation with states, and consultation with federal agencies to ensure federal activities do not jeopardize the continued existence of a species.  The primary goal for both USFWS and NMFS is to support species recovery.

FEMA – FEMA does not directly implement the Endangered Species Act—that responsibility rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. However, as a federal agency, FEMA is required under Section 7 of the Act to “insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize” threatened or endangered species or their habitat. This means that actions conducted by communities, individuals, or others pursuant to a FEMA program may not jeopardize those species or their habitat. Thus, NFIP communities need to avoid modifications to the floodplain—such as fill—that could harm riparian or coastal habitats.

What is Critical Habitat?  

Critical habitat is the specific geographic areas that contain physical and biological features essential to the conservation of an endangered or threatened species and that may require special management and protection.  Critical habitat may also include areas that are not currently occupied by the species but will be needed for its recovery.

Link to F&W Critical Habitat Fact Sheet.

Benefits of Conserving Endangered Species

All living things are part of a complex, often delicately balanced network called the biosphere, which is comprised of ecosystems.  No one knows how the extinction of organisms will affect the other organisms in the ecosystem, but the removal of a single species can set off a chain reaction that can have deleterious effects for the system as a whole. 

There are specific benefits of conserving species, which can be thought of as “values.” These values include consumptive (e.g., harvesting, fishing, medicine), non-consumptive (e.g., wildlife viewing, ecosystem balance, ecotourism, cultural heritage), and non-use (e.g., species existence) benefits that people derive from species diversity.  

Congress has recognized that endangered and threatened species of wildlife and plants “are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.” When it passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 Congress promoted the recovery of threatened and endangered species, and the conservation of the critical habitat on which they depend.  A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become endangered in the future.  A species is considered endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  There are approximately 2,300 species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Link to more information on where threatened and endangered species and critical habitat are located and learn more about those species and habitats.


Kentucky Specific Endangered Species

The Frankfort Field Office provides assistance to Federal and State agencies, local governments, businesses, and the general public relative to conserving, protecting, and restoring habitat for migratory birds and federally threatened and endangered species. 

Their assistance is typically provided through six programs:

  • pre-development consultation
  • federal permits and projects
  • endangered species
  • environmental contaminants
  • partners for fish and wildlife
  • education/outreach

Approximately 94% of Kentucky is privately owned, and without conservation efforts on private lands, our trust resources would simply not recover.  Many private landowners in Kentucky want to restore and conserve habitats for fish and wildlife resources, but often lack the financial support and technical knowledge necessary to accomplish this task.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, along with its other conservation partners, helps to satisfy this need by conserving, protecting and restoring quality fish and wildlife habitat for federal trust species on private lands.

Learn More About Kentucky Endangered species – Link to the Kentucky Ecological Services Field Office

Kentucky Habitats of Special Concern

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Kentucky assists in the restoration and conservation of all potential habitat for federal trust species, but the program concentrates on the five primary habitats of concern.

1)     Stream and riparian habitats with threatened, endangered, candidate, and state rare species.

2)     Wetlands and bottomland hardwoods to benefit migratory birds.

3)    Native prairie, barren, woodland savannahs, and canebrakes to benefit migratory birds and rare plant species.

4)     Karst or cave habitats with threatened and endangered bats and other rare cave organisms.

5)     Oak/hickory, American chestnut and old growth forests to benefit migratory birds and rare plant species.

Kentucky Data Analysis Service on Endangered Species

The Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) has a partnership between the Office of Energy Policy (OEP) and the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves (KNP) to provide a data analysis service to energy developers. 

The Kentucky Biological Assessment Tool (KY-BAT), developed and maintained by KNP, provides information to help projects avoid and minimize potential impacts to sensitive plants, animals and natural communities. This partnership is an important link between endangered species and renewable energy.

KNP’s natural heritage database contains over 20,000 species and rare community site-specific records. KNP tracks or monitors nearly 1,000 species and ecological communities, as well as natural areas throughout the state.

By using this data, OEP will be able to identify ecologically sensitive areas and help site energy projects appropriately.    The KY-BAT project offered through this partnership provides data services at no cost, but it is limited to 20 projects on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Learn more about the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves.

For more information, or to submit a project for this free data service, please contact Kenya Stump, kenya.stump@ky.gov.

Protect Natural Floodplains and Endangered Species

Floodplains and their adjacent habitats are essential for the survival of many threatened and endangered species, ranging from sturgeon to dragonflies. 

Learn about the benefits of protecting natural floodplain functions, including conservation of threatened and endangered species.


NFIP, CRS, and Natural Floodplain Functions 

One of the most appreciated natural functions of both inland and coastal floodprone areas is their generation and maintenance of aquatic and terrestrial environments that nurture myriad species of plants and animals. Among those species are many that may face extinction, often because of loss of habitat. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 aims to protect such species by prohibiting anyone from “harming” or “taking” endangered species, and it extends similar protections to threatened species. Further, it requires all federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of those species.

An analogous situation exists with regard to CRS communities, FEMA, and other federal environmental laws.  For local activities that may have an adverse impact on certain species or their habitat, or on water quality, or historical or archaeological features, or wetlands AND for which a community is requesting CRS credit, a community must ensure that it has complied with the applicable federal protective laws.

Endangered Species Act CLOMR and CLOMR-F Requirements

FEMA has established procedures by which applicants for Conditional Letters of Map Revision and Conditional Letters of Map Revision based on Fill (CLOMR and CLOMR-F) document that the Endangered Species Act has been complied with before FEMA will undertake its review of the CLOMR application. In general, that documentation takes the form of an official letter or determination from one of the Services stating either that the proposed action is not expected to affect the species or habitat or that a permit to cause such an impact has been granted.

For Letter of Map Change Requests (LOMCs) involving floodplain activities that have already occurred, private individuals and local and state jurisdictions are required to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements independent of FEMA’s review.

These as-built requests do not provide the same opportunity as Conditional LOMCs for FEMA to comment on the project because map changes are issued only after the physical action has occurred.

Link to F&W Department of Interior FEMA-CLOMC-Checklist.

Endangered Species Act CLOMC Factsheet

FEMA requires documentation of compliance with the minimum ESA requirements for Conditional Letters of Map Change (CLOMCs).

Link to the ESA Factsheet.


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