An ESA cheat sheet


Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories.

Endangered - Any species in danger of extinction throughout all or most of its range and "listed" as such under the Endangered Species Act. Now, 357 animals and 568 plant species in the U.S. are listed as endangered.

Threatened - Any species likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future; 258 plant and animal species are listed as threatened.

Take - To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a listed species, or to attempt to do so. Significant change to a species' habitat is also considered take.

Incidental Take - Take is considered "incidental" when it is "not the purpose of ... an otherwise lawful activity," like construction or logging.

Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) - A required part of a private landowner's application for an "incidental take" permit. A habitat conservation plan is intended to offset the impact of incidental take on the endangered species. For example, a landowner may be granted an incidental take permit to develop 100 acres of endangered species habitat, but the habitat conservation plan may require him or her to pay a tax that would help to purchase and preserve a block of similar habitat. HCPs are permitted under a 1982 amendment to the Endangered Species Act.

Multiple Species HCP - A habitat conservation plan covering more than one species. Some multiple-species plans cover dozens of listed species.

"No Surprises' Policy - Adopted by the Clinton administration in 1994, this policy states that once a landowner signs on to a habitat conservation plan, he or she will not be subject to any further land-use restrictions under the Endangered Species Act. If new species are listed or new information is discovered about listed species in the area, the federal government must pay for the additional conservation measures.

Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, seven species on the list have gone extinct, including the Santa Barbara song sparrow, the blue pike and the long-jawed cisco, a fish that once lived in the Great Lakes. Eleven formerly listed species are now considered to be recovered, including the American alligator, the gray whale and some populations of the brown pelican. The bald eagle, perhaps the nation's most famous endangered animal, was proposed for delisting on July 4, 1999; after a year-long process of review and public comment, the eagle may join the list of recovered species.