Guidelines and Permitting
In Florida, laws and policies have been implemented to protect fish and wildlife species whose populations are declining or at risk of becoming extinct. To build on undeveloped land, or implement conservation efforts, steps are often required to identify and document the natural resource assets of the site. Avoidance, minimization, or mitigation measures may be necessary before projects may move forward to avoid negative impacts to sensitive habitats or listed species.
Under Chapter 68A-27.003 and 68A-27.005 F.A.C., no person shall take, possess, or sell any Federal or State-designated Endangered or Threatened Species or Species of Special Concern, or parts thereof including their nests or eggs except as allowed by specific federal or state permit or authorization. “Take,” as defined in Rule 68A-27.001(4) for state Threatened species, is to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in such conduct. Further, the following terms are specifically defined in this rule for state Threatened species:
“Harm” means an act which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife. Such act may include significant habitat modification or degradation where it kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavior patterns, including breeding, feeding or sheltering.
“Harass” means an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.
“Intentional take” results from activities purposely carried out to cause the take. For example, collection of animals for scientific research.
“Incidental take” is any taking otherwise prohibited, if such taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity.
Numerous laws, treaties, and regulations use permits to help conserve state and federally protected resources. For a federally-designated Endangered or Threatened Species, activities that result in take must be either authorized by USFWS or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); or a permit may be obtained from FWC or other authority who has a written agreement or regulatory delegation from USFWS or NMFS. The USFWS’ Florida field offices developed landowner and consultant tools and information to assist in assembling complete federal consultation requests. In Chapter 68A-27.007 F.A.C., permits and authorizations for the take of Endangered and Threatened Species are outlined. For the taking of State-designated Threatened Species, FWC may issue permits for intentional take, scientific or conservation activities, or incidental take through a defined process.
Examples of authorized activities that do NOT require a permit include: land management activities that support management plans for the species; agriculture (as defined in Section 570.02 F.S.) conducted in accordance with wildlife best management practices; wildlands fire suppression activities; and intentional take of a marine organism under Chapter 68B-8. Airports may also be authorized to take wildlife in emergency situations when a safety risk is imposed (Rule 68A-9.012). For additional information, review Chapter 68A-27, F.A.C.
- Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines (FWC) – webpage which lists the species for which specific guidelines have been developed to provide clear information on what the requirements of rules in 68A-27.007, F.A.C as it relates to intentional and incidental take permitting
- Protected Wildlife Permits (FWC) – webpage which provides examples and details for understanding if a permit is needed and the process for obtaining a protected wildlife permit.
- Federal Fish and Wildlife Permits (USFWS) – webpage outlining the various wildlife permits issued by the USFWS.
Depending on the species potential occurrence, a species-specific survey should be conducted by qualified wildlife biologists or ecologists with documented experience of known occurrences and habitat requirements. Survey protocols or guidelines have been established by USFWS and/or FWC for many species of wildlife. See the specific species sections in the wildlife chapter of this guide for species-specific survey protocols. If protocols have not been established, the USDA Forest Service Multiple Species Inventory Guide provides examples or general methodology. All survey methods should be cited in a final report and any modifications explained. Most survey results are valid for one breeding season and should be repeated in the active season immediately prior to and during land use activities that alter or remove wildlife habitat. Surveys and land use planning activities should consider the diversity of wildlife species and habitat requirements of target species for management purposes. Many imperiled species may resemble common species leading to misidentification. Therefore, it is recommended that wildlife surveys be completed by biologists with adequate field training, and they should reference multiple field guides when identifying species. Additionally, regularly viewing track casts and scat specimens in a museum or laboratory are beneficial when conducting surveys to identify captured animals or evidence of animals’ presence effectively. In many cases, it may be necessary to consult with FWC, USFWS, or NMFS.
Surveys are not always recommended for range-limited species and if surveys are conducted, a federal and state survey permit (for contact with the species) may be required. Surveys that require the handling or possible disturbance of an imperiled species are not recommended for most projects. Rather, within the appropriate range or habitat, presence can be assumed, and protection measures employed.
Wildlife Assessment and Protection Reporting
Certain programs and permits have specific requirements or forms to complete but similar components are often incorporated into a report for rare and imperiled wildlife species assessments. Generally, surveys should be recorded on a map with pedestrian transects, observation points, trap grids, drift-fence arrays, and other sampling plot locations. Additionally, onsite habitats, protection measures (e.g. buffer areas), mitigation areas, and other survey result information should be included in a final report following suggested reporting guidelines. The Wildlife Species Report Outline resource linked below includes most of the components needed to meet many reporting requirements.
- Wildlife Species Report Outline – reference which provides a guide of the basic components of a wildlife or listed species report.
- Field Reporting Forms (FNAI) – webpage which contains instructions and recommendations for submitting wildlife occurrence information to FNAI.
- Wildlife Observation Form (Biodiversity Centre for Wildlife Studies) – example form for recording wildlife observations in the field.
Avoidance measures, such as avoiding occupied habitat or creating buffer zones, may significantly reduce the possibility of take and prevent the need for permitting. Minimization efforts may also reduce impacts to state-threatened species. Examples of minimization efforts include seasonal or temporal restrictions, design or method modification, and BMPs.
Mitigation is used when take cannot be avoided completely. Options include habitat mitigation, funding mitigation, information provision options, and scientific benefit. Habitat mitigation may be in the forms of creation, enhancement, restoration, and management of habitat that would contribute a conservation benefit; or, land acquisition through conservation easements. Alternatively, monetary contributions to support conservation actions that would benefit the impacted species may be used when other forms of mitigation may not be possible. The options of information or scientific benefit may not be fully comprehensive forms of mitigation. These options are reviewed on a case-by-case basis depending on the data gaps for the species. More information on minimization and mitigation efforts can be found in the Imperiled Species Management Plan under “Laws and Policy.”
In 1982, Congress amended the ESA providing Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) for take of listed species in connection with otherwise lawful activities. The FWC and USFWS can issue ITPs to public or private parties for otherwise lawful projects on non-federal land for take of state and federally listed species. This process can be used to reduce conflicts between listed species and development. It also provides a framework encouraging "creative partnerships" between the private sector and local, state, and federal agencies. Factors considered for ITP issuance include:
- the objectives of a federal recovery plan or state management plan;
- foreseeable long-range impact over time if take of the species is authorized;
- the impacts to other fish and wildlife resources;
- extent of injury, harm, or loss of the species;
- whether the incidental take could reasonably be avoided, minimized, or mitigated by the permit applicant;
- human safety;
- other factors relevant to the conservation and management of the species.
Incidental take permits are authorized only if there is a scientific or conservation benefit, and only if the applicant can demonstrate that the permitted activity will not have a negative impact on the survival potential of the species. By evaluating the seven factors listed above, it must be evident that any proposed take is counterbalanced and additional benefits for the loss of species or habitat are included to meet the requirements of a “conservation benefit” to the species. Alternatively, a “scientific benefit” would be a study that would significantly advance the knowledge or management of the species, as identified in the Species Action Plan or additional management documents. Close coordination with FWC and/or USFWS is highly recommended when applying for permits. For additional information, visit the Protected Wildlife Permits page.
Habitat Conservation Plans
To receive an ITP for federally listed species, an applicant must first develop and submit a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). An HCP is a mandatory prerequisite for receiving an ITP and must include certain components. First, it must describe the intended activity and quantify the impact of the project on listed species. It must also propose measures to minimize and mitigate for that impact. Finally, it must provide for long-term monitoring of the mitigation efforts to ensure that the measures outlined in the HCP are effective.
- Volusia County Beach Driving HCP
- Indian River County Coastal Armoring HCP
- Charlotte County Scrub-jay HCP
FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Plan lays out the current status for Florida’s state-listed species using an integrated approach to tackle conservation goals by reducing the risk of extinction, maintaining habitat, and improving support of conservation efforts.
The Plan describes:
- The regulatory authority in place for state-listed species, including changes in permitting, rules, and policies.
- Species Action Plan Summaries outlining the major threats, conservation goals, and key actions needed to achieve delisting.
- The Implementation section describes the framework to effectively implement the conservation goals over the next 10 years.
- Impact Assessments evaluating the ecological, sociological, and economic impacts associated with the ISMP’s implementation.
The ISMP is focused on filling in data gaps to improve scientific decision-making for imperiled species, and maximizing conservation efforts through communication, outreach, and management. It ultimately outlines the conservation needs of our state-listed species. Several new policies were created to support the new ISMP. These policies include: