Description and Intent
The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to ensure that federal agencies and departments use their authorities to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species. Section 7 of the Act requires that federal agencies prevent or modify any projects authorized, funded, or carried out by the agencies that are "likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat of such species."
Under Sections 9 and 10 of the Act, non-federal entities, governments and private citizens, even without involvement of a federal agency, also must avoid adversely affecting threatened or endangered species. Where adverse impacts cannot be avoided, state and local governments and private land owners must develop Habitat Conservation Plans in coordination with the US Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Services to reduce conflicts between listed species and development activities, and these plans must meet the requirements of Section 10 of the Act.
Summary Of Requirements
Federal agencies must review actions they undertake or support to determine whether they may affect endangered species or their habitats. If such review reveals the potential for effects, the federal agency must consult with the FWS or NMFS, as appropriate, to identify whether a federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered or threatened species or adversely affect its critical habitat. If FWS or NMFS determines that a proposed action would likely have this negative impact, then the project must be stopped unless the consulting parties can agree on alternatives to eliminate jeopardy. If there are no feasible alternatives that can be carried out, the action agency may apply for an exemption with the Endangered Species Committee.
Developers, local governments, and private citizens cannot adversely impact, take or commercially trade endangered or threatened species without threat of criminal penalties.