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Endangered Species Permits and Conservation Plans


Photo: A. Eilers, Permit number 1596

Individuals planning to conduct any activity resulting in the "take" of an endangered or threatened species, whether or not deliberate, must possess a permit to perform that activity.

Permit Types
There are two types of permits issued for take under the Endangered Species Act (ESA):

  1. Permits for scientific research or to enhancethe propagation and survival of the species (ESA Section 10(a)(1)(A)), and
  2. Permits for taking species incidental to (not the purpose of) an otherwise lawful activity (ESA Section 10(a)(1)(B)). The latter must be accompanied by a Conservation Plan (CP), often referred to as a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

How to Apply
The instructions below are for permits for activities involving threatened or endangered marine and anadromous species.

Please note that the research and enhancement permit application instructions for threatened and endangered species (excluding Pacific salmonids) also apply to research and enhancement activities on marine mammals.

For terrestrial or freshwater species, or land-based sea turtle activities,please contact the appropriate regional office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Scientific Research:

(1) Apply online via Authorizations and Permits for Protected Species (APPS):


(2) Apply by mail or email using the instructions below:

Word version of the instructions:

Regulations and Additional Information Related to the Scientific Research and/or Enhancement Permit

Please submit two copies of your application:
  • Signed original application to the:
    Chief- Permits and Conservation Division
    Office of Protected Resources
    1315 East-West Highway
    Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226
  • Electronic copy of the application (must be in Word, WordPerfect, or PDF) and sent as an email attachment (contact the Permits Division at 301-427-8401 for a current email address) or on a CD.

Conservation Plans (CPs)

When non-Federal entities such as states, counties, local governments, and private landowners wish to conduct an otherwise lawful activity that might incidentally, but not intentionally, "take" a listed species, an incidental take permit (ESA section 10(a)(1)(B)) must first be obtained from NOAA Fisheries. To receive a permit, the applicant must submit a Conservation Plan (CP) that meets the criteria included in the ESA and its implementing regulations. Because many CPs are habitat-based, the term Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is often used interchangably with CP.

CPs are designed to offset harmful effects a proposed activity might have on listed species. CPs also provide additional conservation benefits and flexibility for landowners by including planning for unlisted species. This proactive approach can reduce future conflicts and may even preclude listing of species, furthering the purposes of the ESA. The CP process also provides an opportunity to develop strong partnerships with local governments and the private sector. NOAA Fisheries also follows policies and guidance associated with the CP process.

More Info

Last updated: June 1, 2017