10 July 2020

Helping Species Recover by Tracking Compliance

Written by: Taylor Curtis

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed into legislature in 1973 and is arguably one of the most impactful environmental laws in the United States. The Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office works to help enforce and monitor the different aspects of this significant piece of legislature.

When construction projects threaten a listed species, biologists at our office are contacted to ensure the safety of these organisms, and they outline measures that must be in place for construction to proceed if it is determined that actions may affect the species. Below is a flow diagram I have made to help explain the process agencies must go through before a project begins, if it threatens critical habitat to an endangered species.




My job this summer is to help track the compliance of Section 7 and 10 consultations of the ESA. This includes using a program called Geospatial Compliance and Monitoring System (GCMS). This is the data base I use to enter compliance measures found in biological opinions (BOs) made by lead biologists in the Carlsbad office, through consultations with Federal agencies. BOs are documents that outline the determination FWS has made on how/if these construction plans jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Conservations measures outlined in these opinions can involve onsite protocols to help minimize adverse effects.  They typically outline the requirement of conservation easements, which are pieces of critical habitat either restored or managed to act as new critical habitat for the listed species to offset the lost habitat by development. These often have due dates and I help organize these and enter it into GCMS so the lead biologist can be notified on that date to track if the agency is in or out of compliance. 


You might be thinking to yourself: what's the big deal about compliance? To ensure the ESA works as it should, organizations must follow the conservation measures determined by FWS. Tracking compliance is an important aspect of ensuring listed species are being provided the protection they deserve because if terms go ignored, the stakes could lead to the disappearance of a species entirely! This means the small bird such as the California Gnatcatcher, pictured below relies on our efforts to make sure their critical habitat is secured. This job goes beyond pushing papers and setting what can seem like annoying rules on construction sites workers. It is giving a voice to the species that can't speak for themselves and giving them the protection they deserve to have a fighting chance of recovering. This is why my job, as well as the rest of my offices, is so important and makes me proud every day to play a direct part in conservation every day!


Costal California Gnatcatcher Source: The National Audubon Society

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

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