The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are obliged to consult with federal agencies when the actions of those agencies may affect species listed and threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and determine whether such actions are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their critical habitats. The heart of the consultation process is effects analysis, that is, the analysis of the effects of a proposed action on listed species and their designated critical habitats. We propose a structured framework for conducting effects analysis that includes three essential steps—the collection of reliable scientific information, the critical assessment and synthesis of available data and analyses derived from those data, and the analysis of the effects of actions on listed species and their habitats. We also describe obstacles to rigorous effects analysis and the means to overcome such obstacles. The prior failure of the Services to embrace structured effects analysis has led to costly, ineffective management actions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and elsewhere. But even now examples of effects analysis that uses the best available science and hews to essential process steps that are described in this article remain rare.
Murphy DD, Weiland PS. 2011. The route to best science in implementation of the Endangered Species Act’s consultation mandate: The benefits of structured effects analysis. Environmental Management 47:161-172.