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Cooperative Interagency Consultation Process

The high volume of informal interagency (section 7) consultations that NMFS performs each year poses an ongoing and growing resource challenge. In 2016, GARFO responded to 141 informal consultations, and we've experienced significant growth in the number of requests over the last few years. We recognize that the growing number and complexity of informal consultation requests is affecting our ability to complete consultations in a timely manner. Considering the growing economy, multiple new ESA listed species and critical habitat designations, and anticipated waves of consultation requests expected from large scale projects, we have evaluated ways to make our section 7 program more efficient for small projects with little impact to listed species. Making the process for small projects more efficient frees our staff to collaborate with their action agency counterparts in conducting a thorough effects analysis for larger projects that adversely affect species, and to focus on developing efficient avoidance and minimization measures to reduce effects and support recovery.

We have a specialized e-mail account to expedite the process of receiving a response from us - nmfs.gar.esa.section7@noaa.gov. We encourage action agencies to electronically submit their requests directly to this e-mail account. A dedicated NMFS section 7 biologist will expeditiously respond to technical assistance or consultation requests.

To make the interagency consultation process more efficient, we have engaged with action agencies in programmatic approaches to consultations where possible. We have also provided technical guidance and training to action agencies on the section 7 consultation process. Further, in 2016 we developed, in coordination with our action agency counterparts, a process where the action agency conducts the effects analyses and evaluates if they need to request formal consultation or not. To support action agencies, we updated our website to provide clear guidance on how to analyze effects and reach correct effect determinations, tools to conduct effect analysis, and resources and templates for writing adequate letters requesting concurrence when an action agency concludes that a project is not likely to adversely affect (NLAA) listed species. 

On our side, once an adequate effects analysis is provided and the action agency’s NLAA determination is supported by the best available scientific and commercial data and information, we will immediately continue the process of completing the consultation by writing a letter of concurrence using an established template, requiring a fraction of the time used previously to complete consultations. This cooperative process has sharply reduced the time spent in developing informal section 7 letters of concurrence in response to action agency requests. Moving forward in 2017, we have fully adopted this process. Success of this program continues to depend upon you providing us with an adequate effects analysis and letter requesting concurrence with your determination. Once an adequate effects analysis and letter is provided, we will immediately develop a concurrence letter using the established template, thereby providing a timely response. Requests that are not adequate will be returned to the action agency. A template letter and examples of successful letters are available on our website, under Writing Resources.

We will continue to work closely with our action agency counterparts to provide tools and guidance to analyze their proposed activities for effects to listed species as well as resources and templates for writing letters requesting consultation. Additionally, we continue to revise our section 7 webpage to provide ready access to tools and consultation guidance. Please check our website frequently as we update regularly.