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                                                                                                    March 22, 2010

Subject: ECS – Section 7 Endangered Species Act Consultations for Atlantic salmon and Shortnose Sturgeon

Purpose. To establish interim procedures for interagency Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultations for NRCS practices which may affect the endangered Atlantic salmon, critical habitat designated for Atlantic salmon, and the endangered shortnose sturgeon.

Expiration Date. September 30, 2010

Background. NRCS has initiated two programmatic Section 7 ESA consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), collectively referred to as the Services, for actions that may affect the aforementioned ESA protected species and habitat. The NRCS priority is completion of these programmatic consultations. It will fulfill our ESA consultation responsibilities for many NRCS practices and will streamline and expedite consultation for other practices.

Explanation. Recent expansion of the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment (GOMDPS) of Atlantic salmon and the designation of critical salmon habitat has caused an increase in ESA consultations. The result is the Services response to project-specific NRCS consultations has been slowed. Therefore, the NRCS will follow the procedures below to allow the Services more time to focus on our programmatic consultations, and to prepare site-specific NRCS consultation packages to achieve a timely response from the Services.

NRCS Assistance to the Services for Logged NRCS Consultations Packages

The Services assigns a log number to each NRCS consultation package received. For each consultation package, the Services determines whether an informal or formal interagency ESA consultation process is appropriate.

  1. Formal consultations – The NRCS will postpone all practices requiring formal consultation until further notice.
  2. Informal consultations – The Services will inform the NRCS Biologist of any additional information needed for logged NRCS consultation packages. The NRCS Biologist will work with NRCS field staff to provide the Services with requested information.

Field Office Responsibilities for Future Salmon and Sturgeon ESA Consultations

  1. For practices planned in the GOMDPS of Atlantic salmon and/or areas mapped as shortnose sturgeon habitat, NRCS field staff will use the Salmon Sturgeon Practice Effects Matrix to help make the appropriate ESA effect determination.

There are three potential outcomes:

  1. No Effect (NE) – The practice will have no short or long term effects.
  2. Not Likely to Adversely Affect (NLAA) – To be designated as NLAA, a practice must meet all criteria listed in the matrix. If these criteria cannot be achieved, the practice shall be designated as Likely to Adversely Affect (LAA). Practices with a NLAA designation will require interagency ESA consultation.
  1. NRCS field personnel will develop a project-specific NRCS consultation package. At a minimum, a consultation package will include a completed ME-ECS-1, location map, topographic map, and conservation plan map. Additional information is often helpful or needed (i.e., pictures, engineering drawings, etc.) and is encouraged.
  2. Project-specific NRCS ESA consultation packages will be uploaded to the appropriate counties ESA folder on the Maine NRCS SharePoint site.
  1. Likely to Adversely Affect (LAA) Practices – Practices with this designation will be postponed until further notice.

     B.  Field Offices with work areas within the GOMDPS of Atlantic salmon and/or areas mapped as
          shortnose sturgeon habitat are required to have at least one employee in attendance at a
          meeting to review the interim ESA consultation procedures described herein.

NRCS State Office Responsibilities for Future Salmon and Sturgeon ESA Consultations

  1. The NRCS Biologist will review project-specific NRCS consultation packages on the SharePoint site and will work with NRCS field staff to develop an ESA consultation package that can be processed by the Services in an efficient and timely manner.
  2. The NRCS Biologist will forward complete NRCS consultation packages to the appropriate Service, with a copy to the District Conservationist. Note: Field Offices are responsible for completing all other consultations required by NRCS policy, State and/or Federal law.
  3. The NRCS Biologist will briefly review and discuss these interim ESA consultation procedures with affected field offices. The meeting will be coordinated with Pauline Paré, ASTC for Operations.

Contact. Jeff Norment, Biologist at 207-990-9571 or email

/s/ William Yamartino, Acting

State Conservationist