Special Status Species

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Designations for special species

There are many special status designations; often they are agency specific ( full list). These designations have different legal implications. Listed species are those that have been listed as either Endangered or Threatened under the state or federal Endangered Species Act. There are other designations that do not carry the same legal weight but serve to draw attention to at-risk species. For example, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) maintain a list of Species of Special Concern (SSC)[1]. The CDFW also maintains a Watch List for fish [2] and birds[3]. The BLM[4]and US Forest Service [5] maintain regional lists of Sensitive species.

Listed Designation

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973 [6]and has been revised through time since its inception. The purpose of the ESA is to provide a means to preserve ecosystems used by threatened and endangered species by creating critical habitat[7]. These species are legally protected and State and federal agencies are required to prevent further decline of listed species.

  • Endangered- any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.[8]
  • Threatened- any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.[9]

Species of Special Concern Designation

Species of Special Concern [1] designation does not confer legal protection but often plays a role in and use decisions. Large development projects, for example, may reject sites with documented Species of Special Concern to avoid complications should the species become listed. Species of Special Concern meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • was native to California but is now extirpated (or, for bird species, no longer breeding in California)
  • is federally but not state listed
  • is experiencing a substantial decline in population
  • has normally occurring small populations which are now at risk (e.g. from development, habitat fragmentation, etc...)

Watch List Designation

The CDFW also maintains a Watch List. Species on the Watch List have recently been delisted from the SSC list or do not otherwise definitively meet SSC list criteria. In many cases species on the Watch List may be eligible for the SSC but are not for lack of information[1].

Sensitive Species Designation

The Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service maintain lists of sensitive species. These species are present on land managed by those agencies which are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered. Once listed as sensitive, the agencies make land management decisions based on preventing those species from becoming listed. These conservation efforts are intra-agency initiatives. There is no external agency that enforces sensitive species policies. In the Forest Service, this activity is managed by the Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive (TES) Species Program [5]. There are many other designations specific to certain government agencies and conservation organizations. Here is a comprehensive list maintained by CDFW.

Management Implications of Special Species Designations

Special status species on the Central Coast (and nationally) are managed by various State and Federal agencies. Special status species must be considered when planning and managing on federal, state, and private lands at various levels depending on the type of special status designation. Part of any environmental impact report is an assessment of the project's effect on special status species, as listed under the California Endangered Species Act.

Management Implications of Listed Species

Management Implications of Species of Special Concern

Management Implications of Watch List Species

Management Implications of Watch List Species

.... A full account of the CEQA process can be found here.

Special Status Species Of the Central Coast Lists


US Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Lists

CA Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Lists


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [1]
  2. [htps://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/ssc/fish.html]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. 5.0 5.1 [4]
  6. [5]
  7. [6]
  8. http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/section-3.html
  9. http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/section-3.html


This page may contain students' work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.