Laws Protecting Plant and Wildlife Species

The Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Salmon The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) was signed on December 28, 1973, and provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. The ESA replaced the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969; it has been amended several times.

A species is considered endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

Through federal action and by encouraging the establishment of state programs, the 1973 Endangered Species Act provided for the conservation of ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants depend.

    The Act:
  • authorizes the determination and listing of species as endangered and threatened;
  • prohibits unauthorized taking, possession, sale, and transport of endangered species;
  • provides authority to acquire land for the conservation of listed species, using land and water conservation funds;
  • authorizes establishment of cooperative agreements and grants-in-aid to States that establish and maintain active and adequate programs for endangered and threatened wildlife and plants;
  • authorizes the assessment of civil and criminal penalties for violating the Act or regulations; and
  • authorizes the payment of rewards to anyone furnishing information leading to arrest and conviction for any violation of the Act or any regulation issued thereunder.

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires Federal agencies to insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by them is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or modify their critical habitat. Section 7(a)(2) requires federal agencies proposing an action that “may affect” an endangered species to “consult” with either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on potential unacceptable impacts to the species and ways to mitigate those impacts.

The first step is for the agency proposing the action to request information about the presence of any listed species within the proposal area. If a listed species is found within the proposal area, the action agency must prepare a Biological Assessment. If it is found that the project is likely to adversely affect a protected species, the action agency must then engage in formal consultation with FWS or NMFS. After formal consultation, FWS or NMFS must issue a Biological Opinion assessing the impact of the project on the species. If the determination of the Biological Opinion is that the activity will jeopardize an endangered species or degrade its critical habitat, FWS or NMFS makes a “jeopardy determination.” This determination is significant in that once it is issued, the action agency must develop reasonable and prudent alternatives, or measures, to help conserve the species. The Bush administration, again, has proposed changes that would substantially weaken the Forest Service’s Section 7 obligations under ESA.

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA)

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) (Fish and Game Code Sections 2050 to 2097) is administered by the California Department of Fish and Game and prohibits the take of plant and animal species designated by the Fish and Game Commission as either threatened or endangered in the state of California. “Take” in the context of the CESA means to hunt, pursue, kill, or capture a listed species, as well as any other actions that may result in adverse impacts when attempting to take individuals of a listed species.

California Native Plant Protection Act

The Native Plant Protection Act (NPPA) of 1977 (Fish and Game Code Section 1900-1913) directed the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to carry out the Legislature's intent to "preserve, protect and enhance rare and endangered plants in this State." The NPPA gave the California Fish and Game Commission the power to designate native plants as "endangered" or "rare" and protected endangered and rare plants from take.

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