The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires all federal agencies, in consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.
Under the Section 7 implementing regulations (50 CFR Part 402), Federal agencies must review their actions to determine whether they may affect endangered or threatened species or critical habitat. To accomplish this, Federal agencies must:
Programmatic ESA consultation with the USFWS for the Solar PEIS included consultation under both conservation review (ESA Section 7(a)(1)) and a programmatic biological opinion (ESA Section 7(a)(2)).
Through the conservation review, the USFWS found that the selection of solar energy zones (SEZs), exclusion of certain areas from eligibility for solar energy development, application of design features to all solar energy development that will occur, and the review process applicable to development in variance areas outside of SEZs are likely to contribute to the conservation of listed species.
The BLM's programmatic Biological Assessment described potential effects on ESA-listed species and designated critical habitat from expected solar energy development in SEZs and any appropriate mitigation, minimization, and avoidance measures. Further Section 7(a)(2) consultation will occur, as necessary, for individual solar energy projects and will benefit from the preceding programmatic consultation and resulting programmatic USFWS Biological Opinion for SEZs. See Section 7.5 of the Solar PEIS Record of Decision (ROD) for a summary of species likely and not likely to be adversely affected by expected solar energy development in SEZs. The USFWS Biological Opinion concluded that development in SEZs, however, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of species identified as likely to be adversely affected, and is not likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat (because critical habitat was an exclusion criteria for SEZs and variance areas in the Solar PEIS).
For future solar projects in SEZs, further Section 7(a)(2) consultation will occur, as necessary, at the level of individual solar energy projects, and will benefit from the preceding programmatic consultation and resulting programmatic Biological Opinion for SEZs.