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Environmental Review Toolkit
Photo of wetlands with a white Egret in mid-flight


Transportation projects often produce unintended consequences for wildlife and habitat. The FHWA offers resources to transportation agencies so that they may incorporate habitat and species conservation into their planning efforts.

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act requires that federal agencies consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Marine Fisheries Service and State wildlife agencies for activities that affect, control or modify waters of any stream or bodies of water, in order to minimize the adverse impacts of such actions on fish and wildlife resources and habitat. This consultation is generally incorporated into the process of complying with NEPA, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, or other federal permit, license or review requirements.

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minus sign Endangered Species

When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.” It further expressed concern that many of our nation’s native plants and animals were in danger of becoming extinct.

The purpose of the ESA is to provide a program to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Further, Congress stated its policy that all Federal agencies utilize their authorities to further the purpose of the ESA. The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The USFWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and anadromons fish such as salmon.

Under the ESA, species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. The USFWS and NMFS will designate “critical habitat” at the time of listing, when appropriate. See the Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance section to find memoranda and related information on the ESA and highway projects.

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minus sign Fisheries and Essential Fish Habitat

Fish require healthy surroundings to survive and reproduce. Essential fish habitat includes all types of aquatic habitat—wetlands, coral reefs, seagrasses, rivers—where fish spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity. NOAA Fisheries works with the regional fishery management councils to identify the essential habitat for every life stage of each federally managed species using the best available scientific information.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. First passed in 1976, the Magnuson-Stevens Act fosters long-term biological and economic sustainability of our nation’s marine fisheries out to 200 nautical miles from shore. Key objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act are to:

  • Prevent overfishing
  • Rebuild overfished stocks
  • Increase long-term economic and social benefits
  • Ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood
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The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. USFWS has statutory authority and responsibility for administering the MBTA.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) makes it illegal for anyone to “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle… [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof.” The Act defines “take” as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.” “Disturb” means: “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has statutory authority and responsibility for administering the BGEPA.

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minus sign Marine Mammals

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits, with certain exceptions, the “take&” of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas. The NOAA Fisheries and USFWS have statutory authority and responsibility for administering the MMPA.

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minus sign Wildlife and Vehicle Conflict

Keeping It Simple: Easy Ways to Help Wildlife Along Roads
This FHWA website highlights examples of solutions to reduce the impacts of highways on wildlife.

Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study, 2008
A national study that details the causes and impacts of wildlife-vehicle collisions and identifies potential solutions. This report focuses on tools, methods, and measures that reduce the number of collisions between vehicles and large wildlife.

Additional Resources: