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Recovery of Species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Overview | Recovery Plans | 2016 National Recovery Program Review | Report to Congress | Guidance


Recovery plans must incorporate, at a minimum:

  1. a description of site-specific management actions necessary to achieve recovery of the species,
  2. objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the species be removed from the list; and
  3. estimates of the time and costs required to achieve the plan's goal

Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to develop and implement recovery plans for threatened and endangered species, unless such a plan would not promote conservation of the species.

How Do We Develop Recovery Plans?

Many, but not all, recovery plans are written by recovery teams and, in some cases, implementation of plans is guided by recovery teams. Section 4 of the ESA allows us to procure the services of public and private entities to develop and implement recovery plans, including the appointing of recovery teams. We have made a concerted effort to include representative stakeholders (those with an interest in the species) on recovery teams and to involve the public in recovery planning.

To assist recovery teams in drafting recovery plans, we have developed guidance:

This guidance provides information to ensure consistency among recovery plans and their usefulness to potential partners in recovering species. The guidance also stresses the importance of involving stakeholders in the recovery process. NMFS also follows additional policies, guidances, and regulations associated with recovery of species.

All recovery plans are made available in draft form and public comments are solicited before the plan is finalized, ensuring that the public has an opportunity to provide input in the recovery planning process.

How are Recovery Plans Implemented?

Implementation of recovery actions is the responsibility of all Americans, but tends to fall largely on Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as tribes and interested organizations or individuals within the range of the species.

Our Cooperative Conservation with States program (under section 6 of the ESA) was developed to assist states that have a cooperative agreement with NMFS in developing and implementing their conservation program for species listed in that agreement, including providing funding for management, research, and monitoring that has a direct conservation benefit to the species.

Conservation actions may also be carried out by Federal agencies as part of their obligations under section 7(a)(1) of the ESA, or as a means to minimize activities that adversely affect a species as part of an interagency consultation. States, local agencies and private entities may conduct conservation actions as a means to minimize or mitigate "incidental take" of species as part of a Conservation Plan under section 10 of the ESA.

Private and public entities and individuals also take actions to recover species simply because it's the right thing to do or because they have an interest in seeing the species "delisted".

NMFS conducts periodic reviews of species to ensure that they are listed appropriately. Because the ESA requires such reviews to be conducted at least once every 5 years, they're referred to as 5-year reviews.

2016 National Recovery Program Review

Section 4(f) of the ESA requires the Secretary to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species.  The ESA defines 'conserve' as to use all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring listed species to the point where the protections of the ESA are no longer necessary. This review:

Recovery Program Review Synthesis Report [pdf]

NMFS Recovery Program Review Response [pdf]

Program Review


» Atlantic Salmon 
       » Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
       » Elkhorn & Staghorn Corals
       » Hawaiian Monk Seals
       » Johnson's Seagrass
       » Leatherback Sea Turtles
       » Loggerhead Sea Turtle
       » North Atlantic Right Whale
       » Puget Sound Chinook Salmon
       » Smalltooth Sawfish
       » Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook Salmon
       » Recovery Program and Process
Which Species Should Have a Recovery Plan?
Legal Framework for ESA Recovery Planning and Implementation

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Last Updated : September 2, 2016