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BLM Signs Alternative Consultation Agreement for National Fire Plan Projects on Endangered Species

The BLM signed an Alternative Consultation Agreement (ACA) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on March 3, 2004. The ACA was required under the joint counterpart regulations to the Endangered Species Act that the FWS and NMFS developed jointly with Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The joint counterpart regulation to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides alternative procedures that may be used to comply with the federal agency consultation responsibilities described in section 7 of the ESA. The new procedures allow the BLM to make “not likely to adversely affect” determinations without consulting with or obtaining written concurrence from the FWS or NMFS for proposed actions that support the National Fire Plan (NFP). The counterpart regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2003.

The counterpart regulations allow an accelerated approval process for projects that support the NFP. In addition, the resources that FWS and NMFS normally devote to reviewing requests for concurrence now will be available to focus on other, more complex, consultations, allowing them to complete those consultations more quickly and efficiently. The BLM’s biologists have much experience in identifying expected effects of proposed actions to endangered species. The counterpart regulations will be as equally protective of listed species as is the current process and the regulations allow agencies to use staff resources more effectively. Use of the counterpart regulations for NFP projects remains optional.