What We Do

We uniquely bridge the non-regulatory and regulatory approaches to species conservation. Two key elements:

  1. identifying species most in need of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection and the activities that threaten them; and
  2. working through partnerships to conserve these species by improving habitat and removing threats.

We may identify a species as a candidate for listing under the ESA after we have conducted an evaluation of its status—either on our own initiative through the candidate conservation assessment process, or in response to a petition we have received. During our review of a petition, we may make a finding that listing is warranted but precluded by other higher priority listing actions. In this case, the species is added to our list of candidates and their status is reviewed annually.

Through our candidate assessment process, we work with range partners to assess the status of species that may be declining and identify those for which the best scientific and commercial data available indicates that a proposal for listing is appropriate.

Learn more about candidate species assessments.

While listing actions of higher priority move forward, we work with states, tribes, private landowners, private partners, and other federal agencies to carry out conservation actions for these species to address threats, prevent further decline, and possibly eliminate the need for listing.

Our Services

An effective program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species requires a means of addressing species that have not yet been listed under the ESA, but face immediate, identifiable threats. Early conservation maximizes management options for landowners and for the target species, minimizes the cost of recovery, and reduces the potential for restrictive land use policies that may be necessary in the future. Addressing the needs of species before the regulatory requirements associated with listing come into play allows greater management flexibility to stabilize or restore these species and their habitats. As threats are reduced and populations are increased or stabilized, priority for listing can be shifted to those species in greatest need of the protective measures the ESA offers.

We developed the following programs to support early conservation of candidate species.

Candidate Conservation Agreements

Candidate conservation agreements (CCAs) are voluntary conservation agreements between the Service and one or more public or private parties. The Service works with its partners to identify threats to candidate species, plan the measures needed to address the threats and conserve these species, identify willing landowners, develop agreements, and design and implement conservation measures and monitor their effectiveness.

Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances

Candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAAs) expand on the success of traditional CCAs by providing non-federal landowners with additional incentives for engaging in voluntary proactive conservation through assurances that limit future conservation obligations. One of the primary reasons for developing the CCAA program was to address landowner concerns about the potential regulatory implications of having a listed species on their land. The CCAA program specifically targets non-federal landowners and provides them with the assurance that if they implement various conservation activities, they will not be subject to additional restrictions if the species becomes listed under the ESA. These assurances are only available to non-federal entities for actions on non-federal lands. 

Combination CCAs and CCAAs

The Service has prepared guidance that combines the use of CCAs and CCAAs to encourage expanded collaborative conservation to help preclude the need to list species occurring on both federal and non-federal lands. This guidance was developed in response to the request of non-federal property owners and has the potential to provide greater certainty that if a species becomes listed despite their efforts, they will not be required to make significant additional changes in their activities on federal or non-federal lands. View guidance for using existing tools to expand cooperative conservation for candidate species across federal and non-federal lands.

Search the Conservation Plans and Agreements Database for plans that have been approved and are being implemented.

View a list of species precluded from listing as a result of conservation. 

Our Projects and Research

Each year, we consider the best available scientific and commercial data available to reassess the conservation status of species identified as candidates. We publish our findings in the annual Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR), providing an updated list of plants and animals native to the United States that are regarded as candidates for possible listing under the ESA.  While there is no requirement under the ESA to publish such a list, we believe that it is important to advise other federal agencies, state and tribal governments, local governments, industry, and the public of those species that are at-risk and may warrant ESA protection. Advance notice of potential ESA listings may encourage proactive conservation efforts.

By reducing threats to species and their habitats before they become critically imperiled, future conservation efforts are likely to be less costly, more flexible, and more likely to result in successful conservation over time. Even if we subsequently list a candidate species, the early notice provided can result in more options for species management and recovery by prompting earlier candidate conservation measures to alleviate threats to the species.

See the Candidate Notice of Review for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. 

See the current list of candidate species.

Our Laws and Regulations

The Endangered Species Act establishes protections for fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery;...