Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species

Threatened, endangered, and sensitive species refers to plant, animal, and other living organisms which are, to some level, threatened by extinction. Federal and State governments have management responsibility to protect and restore imperiled species and the critical habitat which supports them.

Federal  designation is provided to critically imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for conservation of terrestrial and freshwater aquatic species which are endangered or threatened with extinction due to:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Overutilization
  • Disease and predation
  • Inadequate protection
  • Other natural and man made factors


Map of Data

UDNR.DWR.Habitat CHAT= Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool.
UDNR.DWR.SageGrouseLeks= Greater sage grouse occupied leks.
UDNR.DWR.SageGrouseManagementAreas= Sage grouse management areas.
UDNR.DWR.Sensitive Species= Utah Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species Occurrences by Quad.


Download mxd The ESRI mxd file of the services used to create the above map.

Resource Information

Information about federally listed species by county can be obtained from the USFWS Environmental Conservation Online System, or ECOS.

For sensitive species in Utah not protected by the ESA, the Utah the Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) is tasked with conservation (Section 23-14-1-2a). Utah’s primary objective for managing sensitive species is to maintain wildlife and their habitat well enough to prevent federal designation.[1] Once federally designated, the state loses primacy for the management of the species. This implies federal regulation of activities that may directly threaten listed species or the habitat in the species inhabit. From a state and local perspective, federal designation of endangered species means less local control of land use issues, which might cause harm to the designated species.

Utah’s 2015 Wildlife Action Plan stated goal is “to manage native wildlife species and their habitats, sufficient to prevent the need for additional listings under the Endangered Species Act.” (pg 3) [1] This goal precludes plants.

The UDWR Habitat Designation Advisory Committee divides species into three categories following an official Designation Process (UDWR Administrative Rule R657-48).[2] This ranking includes plants:

  • S-ESA. Federally-listed or candidate species under the Endangered Species Act.
  • CS. Species receiving special management under a Conservation Agreement in order to preclude the need for Federal listing.
  • SPC. Species of concern.

Utah’s State Listed Animal Species (by county) from the Utah Natural Heritage Program can be found here. Plant species are not considered in the UDWR county list, but the Utah Native Plant Society provides more information about rare plant species in Utah.

The Sage Grouse Leks data and the Sage Grouse Management Areas data can be used to locate sage grouse habitat or populations within the county. The DWR Sensitive Species data is 7.5 minute topographic quad level data. Click on a quad to see the sensitive species in that general location. The CHAT data (Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool) is a landscape ranking of habitat.

Best Management Practices

It is a goal of Utah’s state government to prevent new federal listings of species. To this end, the UDWR developed the Utah Wildlife Action Plan.[1] The strategy also includes plans to support the restoration of currently listed species.

Economic Considerations

Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat Designations
The ESA prohibits consideration of economic impacts when determining whether to list a species, but it does require consideration of economic impacts when designating critical habitat. “Because of its huge impact on land use, the designation of critical habitat is one of the most controversial and heavily litigated areas of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”[3] In 2013 the USFWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule regarding how and when these agencies evaluate the economic impacts of critical habitat designation.

Funding for Non-game Species and the Utah Wildlife Action Plan
Species extinctions in the late 19th century and early 20th century triggered national awareness and response in the form of active wildlife management. “Many species pursued today by hunters and anglers would have been considered ‘endangered with extinction’ if that phrase had been in common use during the early 20th Century.”[1] Much of the funding for subsequent conservation successes came from hunter and angler license fees and habitat stamps and federal excise taxes on shooting, boating, and fishing equipment. These sources may indirectly benefit some “non-game” species, but in general funding is harder to come by for these species.

“In 1997, as part of the state water tax, the Utah Legislature created the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund (ESMF) which significantly expanded the funding base for conservation of wildlife species which are designated as Utah Sensitive Species or are ESA-listed. The purpose of this fund is to avoid, reduce, and/or mitigate impacts of ESA listings on the people of Utah.”[1]

“The Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2002 created the federal State Wildlife Grants program (SWG), which enables Congressional appropriators to consider funding wildlife and habitat conservation on a year-to-year basis. This law requires that each state have a current, approved Wildlife Action Plan to remain eligible for any SWG funding that Congress appropriates to the federal program. States that choose to participate in the SWG program must review and revise their Wildlife Action Plans at least once every 10 years, if they want to maintain their eligibility.” Utah’s initial Wildlife Action Plan was completed and approved in 2005, and there is currently a 2015 draft available.[1]

Impact Considerations

Threatened and Endangered Species
Impact considerations related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) include:

  • Section 9 of the ESA prohibits “take” of federally listed threatened and endangered species.
  • Under Section 10, non-federal entities can apply for “incidental take” authorization when a project or activity does not involve a federal action and the take would be incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity (16 U.S.C. §1539(a)(1)(A-B)).
  • Actions and decisions by federal agencies that have potential to affect threatened and endangered species must comply with Section 7 of the ESA.
  • The USFWS has an on-line system, IPaC, to assist with project-level Section 7 and Section 10 compliance.

State Species of Concern
In Utah, important considerations in resource planning are found in the Utah Wildlife Action Plan [1] and the Conservation Plan for Greater Sage-grouse in Utah.[4]

The Wildlife Action Plan identified the following broad category of threats to wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their key habitats.[4]

Level 1 Threats to SGCNs and Key HabitatsTotal Threat Score
Natural System Modifications417
Data Gaps281
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes277
Human Intrusions and Disturbance211
Transportation and Service Corridors180
Energy Production and Mining179
Climate Change and Severe Weather151
Improper Agriculture and Aquaculture138
Residential and Commercial Development127
Biological Resource Use75
Geological Events8

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
Sage Grouse Management Areas
Location of sage grouse management areas that encompass the highest breeding density areas20151:5,000Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool
Ranked hexagons of crucial habitat areas to help with greater certainty and predictability in planning efforts
1 = highest quality habitat
6 = lowest quality habitat
12/2013 640 acre hexagonsUtah Division of Wildlife Resourcesand
Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies CHAT
Utah Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species Occurrences
Use to generally locate Utah's federally and state listed threatened, endangered, and sensitive animal and plant species11/20151:24,000Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Greater Sage Grouse Occupied Leks
Known, active, occupied Greater sage-grouse leks.20151:5,000Utah Division of Wildlife Resources


  1. Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 2015. Utah Wildlife Action Plan, Draft Version 6-4-2015.
  2. Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources. 2015. Utah Sensitive Species List. Salt Lake City, USA.
  3. Petersen, R. 2013. Government Issues Final Rule on Economic Impact Analyses for Endangered Species Act Habitat Designations. Holland & Knight.
  4. Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources. 2013. Conservation Plan for Greater Sage-grouse in Utah. February 14.