Environmental Review Toolkit

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Helpful Hints
The following provides you with helpful hints and quick tips for developing your BA and using the ESA-FHWA Webtool. Along with this site's Overview of the BA process, National BA Template and National BA Template Instructions, we hope to provide you with the structure and assistance you need to make your process of preparing BAs as efficient and straightforward as possible.
Helpful Hints
1. Draft BA
Before you start . . .
  • Gain an understanding of the project by obtaining information regarding its location and any associate activities from project team members. Review the National BA Template to get an idea of the types of information you will need.
  • Establish contact with appropriate project staff such as the project lead, team members responsible for project design (i.e., engineers, etc), and team members gathering available data relevant to the BA.
  • Obtain information regarding species and habitat present in the project action area. Make a formal request for an Endangered and Threatened Species list from NFMS and USFWS. In some areas, this list can be obtained from the Service's Web sites. In others, a formal request must be made and the Services will send you a copy of the most recent list. The BA must be written before the list is six months old, or another list must be requested.
  • Contact your state agencies (e.g., State Department of Natural Resources, State Department of Fish and Wildlife or equivalent) and local experts (e.g., local tribal biologists, Department of Fish and Wildlife area habitat biologists, Department of Natural Resources biologists, and researchers from local universities or academic institutions) to obtain project area-specific data regarding species distribution.
  • Conduct a site visit to document existing conditions and to review the proposed action.
  • Define potential action area using information gathered from project team members. The action area is determined by the largest project impact.
When you write the BA . . .
  • Use the National BA Template and associated instructions.
  • Use the help screens for each and every section of the BA template, even if you don't think you need to.
  • Check out our on-line glossary for definitions to words that are new to you. If you can't find the word you are looking for, let us know and we will add it to the glossary.
  • Establish and maintain ongoing communication with the project team to ensure you are aware of changes to the project design.
  • Use an appropriate level of detail.
  • Use the best scientific and commercially data available (USFWS, NOAA Fisheries 1998).
  • Consult state specific information to ensure the BA meets all local requirements.
  • Consult Biological Opinions from similar types of projects to get an idea of the issues to address.
  • Make sure any figures, site maps and drawings are consistent with the written description you give on the application.
  • The new National BA template has a great help screen feature that will provide you with instructions to help you create a complete BA. To take advantage of this new feature you must have an Internet connection as you fill in the application.
2. DOT/FHWA Review
  • Its important at this stage to have your "Working" drawer in a clean and well-organized way so as to make the review process at this stage happen in as expedient a manner as possible. Having your files, drafts, reports, etc. well-organized and readily accessible will make FHWA's review process happen that much more quickly.
3. Ready to Consult
  • Remember to assemble in the "Completed" drawer of your project file cabinet the BA and any supporting documents you think essential for helping the Services to best understand your Project and your BA, e.g., photos, maps, e-mails, etc. It's not necessary to post more than this. That is what the working drawer is for.
  • Remember to keep the project status designated as "Active." Though the documents are in the "Completed" drawer they are there at this time for Services review, not for archiving. Later you will change the project status to "Archived" and use the "Completed" drawer for this purpose.
4. Submit to Services
What to expect after you submit your application . . .
  • Additional information may be requested. Once the Services begin the review process, they may find that more information is helpful.
  • If you receive a request for more information and it is available, respond as soon as possible.
  • If changes are made to the project or site plans during the review process, send the updated information to the Services.
  • Contact us at any time if you have any questions or concerns (see Contact Us located to the left on the navigation section of the page). We are always happy to help you!
5. Concurrence or BO
  • Once a biological assessment has been completed and submitted to the services, the services have 30 days to let the action agency know if they agree with the effect determination. If the determination is not likely to adversely affect (NLAA), then the services issue a letter of concurrence. If the determination is likely to adversely affect (LAA), then the services issue a Biological Opinion (BO) as well as an Incidental Take Statement, if needed, and provide conservation recommendations within 135 days from the date the BA was submitted.
6. Re-initiation
  • If you plan to re-initiate a consultation, you'll need to pull content back from its dormant status. You do this by placing content in the "Completed" file drawer back into the "Working" file drawer and changing the status of the project from "Dormant" to "Active." If you do re-initiate, depending on how much time has transpired, you may need to update supporting documents and supporting analyses. You will also want to notify Team Members and it could be that staff have changed over if it has been a long time. If this is the case you'll need to invite in new Team Members, and delete those no longer on the team.
7. Archive
  • When a project is ready to be archived, you will need to place only those documents in the "Completed" file drawer most germaine to ESA and the Section 7 effort you just completed. This will typically include: the BA; the Services BO or Letter of Concurrence; and any essential supporting documents that are substantive to your BA.
  • You will need to change the Project Status from "Active" to "Archive." Remember, once you place the project in "Archive" status, the contents of the "Completed" file drawer will be searchable through the document and map search tools.
  • It is also important to check your project description at this point to ensure it still is accurate, especially if it was a long Consultation process.
  • Finally, it is also very important to remember to redact any site-specific or location specific information from the documents being archived at this point so as to ensure the continued protection of any listed species in the site vicinity.
  • You can also click  here  for a downloadable Archive Tip Sheet to help you with archiving.


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