BEFORE YOU START: IMPORTANT NOTE
This document emphasizes factors to consider when defining species Areas of Influence and describes how to prepare and upload geospatial data (shapefiles) that define species Current Ranges and Areas of Influence. In addition, basic steps are presented for defining species range using tabular range data (by county, HUC, and USGS quad or quarter-quad). If you need more information about working with tabular species range data, an illustrated, step-by-step tutorial is available here: Range Edit User Manual.
Species range data are used in a variety of important ways within ECOS. First, species Current Range data populate the Species Profile occurrence maps, which are available to the public by way of the Endangered Species Program home page. Here, Current Range data enable users to search listed species by county and by state, or on each Species Profile page, view species occurrence on a national map. Typically, species Current Ranges form the basis, or at least a starting point, for Areas of Influence .
Second, species Area of Influence data are used in the public-facing Information, Planning and Consultation (IPaC) system. IPaC is a decision-support tool developed to help the Service assist project proponents in designing their activities in ways that address environmental impacts and help them through various environmental consultation and review processes.
Species ranges can be entered in the form of tabular data or uploaded as spatial data in the form of shapefiles. Areas of Influence normally are entered as shapefiles. New in 2013 is the capability to upload shapefiles that define species Current Ranges, as well. The purpose of this document is to describe basically how to do both. But first, an understanding of how IPaC uses Areas of Influence might be helpful. (Detailed step-by-step instructions for entering and editing range data are available in the Range Edit User Manual.)
IPaC uses the Area of Influence information uploaded by Field Offices to automatically generate species lists. IPaC provides either preliminary or official species lists for your office upon request, according to the preferences of each field office. For example, some offices may choose to have IPaC return official species lists, while others may have IPaC return preliminary species lists with direction to contact the field office to confirm their accuracy. Soon, IPaC will use the Area of Influence information to aid in delivering project design recommendations (Conservation Measures) to help protect listed species and offset potential effects.
When fully developed, IPaC will allow project proponents to go online, specify a project location and type, and
As IPaC expands, it will assist in screening out projects that will not affect listed resources, complete the requirements of informal Section 7 consultation, expedite formal Section 7 consultation, and better integrate Section 7 consultation with action agencies’ other environmental review processes, such as NEPA. The Service also plans to link the IPaC system to TAILS and the 10(a)(1)(A) permitting process (aka Recovery Permits) that allows research results to be geographically linked to the landscape, thus increasing the ability to use this information when making management decisions and recommendations.
The species list process is the first step in screening projects for their potential to affect species and their habitats. This is why accurate Areas of Influence are so important: all projects potentially affecting species and their habitats must be identified for further evaluation and screening. IPaC can lessen the burden of this process on field staff by providing project proponents with an inclusive list of species that can then be further refined. For example, after an initial species list is generated, the Service may be able to provide information regarding the specific habitat types of concern. They may then be able to determine that the project will neither affect these habitat types nor be within a Service-identified buffer distance of them. This allows the Service to remove the species from the list of potentially affected species for that project. Our goal is to work with field offices to develop a system that completes as much of this refinement work as possible.
After these initial screening steps are completed, substantial time is often spent working with project proponents to develop project designs that avoid, minimize, and appropriately mitigate impacts to natural resources. An additional goal of the IPaC system is to reduce the workload burden of this process by walking project proponents through a series of steps to collect information regarding their activities and provide design recommendations (Conservation Measures) that have been developed by field staff to assist in avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating potential impacts. As this information is developed, IPaC will construct the needed consultation documents, populate TAILS records, and facilitate communication between project proponents and appropriate field staff.
Once the appropriate concurrence documents or biological opinions are developed, the Section 7 consultation process is often considered to be completed; and, because of IPaC, resources are more efficiently spent, ensuring that the results of consultation are appropriately implemented. To assist field offices in this area, IPaC will contain a reporting and monitoring module that can be used to collect information about project implementation and Section 7 compliance. As this information is gathered, it will be fed into an environmental baseline tracking system to further assist field offices in maintaining better information regarding the status of Service trust resources.
A species’ Current Range comprises the areas within which it is thought or known to occur. Note that Current Range could be different than the species’ historic or Area of Influence; however, some of the same factors described in Section 3.4 Factors to Consider When Developing Species Areas of Influence below may be pertinent as well in defining Current Range.
Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, action agencies consult with the Service if their actions “may affect” listed species or designated critical habitat. The first step for the action agency in determining if consultation is appropriate is to determine if the species may be present in the action area, remembering that the “action area” as defined by the Act may be larger than the actual “project area.” With this in mind, in order for the IPaC system to provide accurate species lists, we must develop “Areas of Influence.” These ranges do not necessarily identify where the species is present, but rather, they identify the area within which any project should consider potential effects to the listed species. This will typically result in Areas of Influence encompassing larger areas than simply where the species is known to exist. For example, say the Recovery Plan for a species with a restricted range has identified the need to expand that range in order to achieve recovery (and thus the species’ long-term survival). If the project’s effects could alter that species’ ability to expand its range, then those effects warrant consideration under Section 7. While the field office may ultimately determine that Section 7 consultation is not appropriate based on the specifics of that project, it is appropriate to consider the potential effects to the species. This may become particularly pertinent as the Service attempts to incorporate the anticipated effects of climate change.
One of the greatest hurdles to providing accurate species lists via an automated system is the issue of activities or circumstances that significantly expand or contract the Area of Influence for a species. A common case is that of far-reaching effects. These are effects that extend to distances beyond those typically anticipated. Some examples include impacts to moving water bodies resulting in downstream effects; airborne effects; and effects resulting from the transport of contaminants or their degradents. Ranges that address such activities and circumstances are called Conditional Areas of Influence. These are Areas of Influence that will be used only when certain conditions are true—for example, only when certain activities (e.g., a prescribed burn) are being proposed.
IPaC uses the standard Area of Influence areas to generate lists of species the proposed project “will likely affect” and the Conditional Area of Influence areas to generate lists of species the project “may affect under certain conditions.” In the latter case, IPaC users will be given instructions to contact your office for further information.
Consider the following factors when developing species Areas of Influence. The best available information and professional judgment should be used when evaluating how and the extent to which each factor should be considered.
Though rarely sufficient alone, areas where the species is known or thought to exist (Current Range) are the most obvious for inclusion in species’ Areas of Influence. Identification of these areas may be based on many sources of information, including State Heritage program data, results from previous consultations, local research or survey results, and personal knowledge.
While this factor alone is not sufficient to identify Areas of Influence, it is an important consideration in conjunction with the distance to known species locations, the potential dispersal distance of the species, potential barriers to species dispersal, historic location information, the level of survey work conducted within the area in question, and the accuracy of survey techniques.
This factor alone also is not sufficient to identify Areas of Influence, but it too is an important consideration. Again, this factor should be considered in conjunction with the distance to known species locations, the potential dispersal distance of the species, potential barriers to species dispersal, historic location information, the level of survey work within the area in question, and the accuracy of survey techniques.
At times it may be important to consider the habitat types that will be impacted. For example, though a project may be proposed many miles upriver from a listed fish species’ Current Range, if that project will impact the river’s water quality, these effects may be carried many miles downstream and result in effects to the species in question.
While information regarding species and habitat distribution is important, it is also important to consider the activity types being proposed and the types of effects typically associated with them. For example, a controlled burn may be proposed well outside a listed species’ range. However, if the smoke could be carried into the species’ range and potentially affect the species, it may be important that the Service include the species on species lists for projects that propose controlled burns. Because the IPaC system will gather information regarding the proposed activity types at the time species lists are generated, rather than increasing the size of the standard Area of Influence, it may be more desirable to identify Conditional Areas of Influence that apply only if certain activity types are performed (in this example, only when controlled burns are proposed).
At times it may be important to identify areas that are outside of the species’ Current Range, but that are important to the species’ recovery and ultimately to its survival. Actions implemented in these areas may affect the likelihood of the species’ survival and recovery; thus, effects to the species from actions implemented in these areas should be considered via Section 7 consultation as well as during recovery planning.
In 2009, field offices were asked to submit Area of Influence data for all species within their jurisdiction. The 2009 data call should have populated most of the known Areas of Influence at that time. Now, updates to existing range descriptions can be made, and Areas of Influence for species newly occurring (or thought to occur) within your jurisdiction can be added.
Remember that entered ranges should be limited to only those areas within your office’s jurisdiction. For example, when generating a county list for a species, the list should only include counties that are wholly or partially within your office’s jurisdiction.
For further guidance on defining Areas of Influence, contact Michael Horton of the Washington office’s Branch of Consultation and Habitat Conservation Planning at
Field offices can enter their Current and Areas of Influence as either tabular or spatial data.
There are costs and benefits of choosing tabular or spatial data. The chief benefit of tabular data is time and effort; it is likely to take less time to assemble a list of counties than to generate a spatial representation of the species’ range. The chief benefit of spatial data is accuracy of results. For example, in situations where species range is generated from tabular data, the entire county will be included in the range even if the species actually only exists in a small portion of the county; thus, the species will show up on the species lists of projects that are proposed within the county even if it is actually outside the species’ range. This will result in the field office having to screen the species out during future consultations. If the Area of Influence is generated from spatial data, the IPaC system will have screened out the species, requiring no further field office work.
When choosing a Current Range or Area of Influence data type (county, HUC-8, quadrangle, quarter quadrangle, or shapefile) for a listed entity, please adhere to the following guidelines:
In the Species Module, via the links on the left navigation menu (either Office Current Ranges or Office Areas of Influence), find the species on the associated list for which you wish to define either a Current Range or a Area of Influence and click . This opens the target species’ Edit page. To enter tabular (by land unit) range data, first choose a range basis, and then do one of the following:
Using either method, tabular species range data can be defined by any one of four units:
It’s important to note that, for tabular data, the application enforces use of the same data type (range basis) for the Current Range or Area of Influence of a given species population. If you start out using, say, counties, and switch to another range basis—say, USGS quads—the application will provide a warning that all data of that range type for this species for your jurisdiction “will be converted to the overlapping units of the new basis.”
(Click here to access illustrated, step-by-step user guides for entering tabular range data at: [LINKED URL].)[WJ1]
To define range using the picklists on the “Edit Current [S7] Range for Office” page, select range units to include by clicking on the appropriate “[Units] to add” on the list at left. They appear in the “[Units] selected” list on the right; click any on this list that you want to remove. Once you save, you can edit the list this same way or on the mapper.
Note regarding Conditional Areas of Influence: In the tabular data format, Conditional Areas of Influence are handled in a separate routine on a separate form (accessed via the link on the species’ Area of Influence edit page: “Conditional Area(s) of Influence … [add]”). As such, Standard and Conditional Areas of Influence are automatically distinguished by the application and are displayed separately on the Area of Influence pages for that species. For this reason, Conditional Area of Influence as tabular data can only be edited using this form. For Conditional Area of Influence spatial data (shapefiles), the user must make this distinction via the filenames. See Section 6.9 Conditional Areas of Influence: A Special Case for details.
From the “Edit Current [S7] Range for Office” page, once you’ve selected the range basis, click the “[edit via map]” link. This opens a U.S. map in a separate window. Your Office jurisdiction is outlined in green. The units for your selected range basis are outlined in black. You can define species population range in any one of the four available units.
To enter range data using the map:
When using the bulk‐edit buttons, if the range bases are different, a conversion takes place that sets the ranges to the most granular level. In order of increasing granularity, these are County, Watershed (HUC‐8), USGS 7.5’ Quad, and USGS Quarter Quad.
When done, click the “Save Map Edits” button in the upper section of the Range Edit panel. When ready to exit the mapper, click “Close Mapper” in the same location.
FOR ADDITIONAL HELP
If you need more detailed, step-by-step information about entering and editing tabular range data, an illustrated tutorial is available here: Range Edit User Manual.
As an alternative to tabular data, offices can upload ESRI shapefiles representing Current Ranges or Areas of Influence. This method [WJ2] is encouraged, since it can more precisely define ranges, resulting in more accurate species lists.
The web page for uploading species Current Ranges or Area of Influence spatial data (ESRI shapefiles) is in the TESS application of the secure ECOS website (https://ecos.fws.gov/).
Follow these steps to open the shapefile upload page:
All Area of Influence spatial data for a given office must be uploaded as ESRI shapefiles contained in a single “zip” file for a single species. A zip file can contain one or more shapefiles, where each shapefile contains information for the one species. The to-be-uploaded zip file containing the shapefile(s) must have the “.zip” file suffix. There is no naming convention for the prefix of the zip file, but there are for the files within it (see Section 6.9 Conditional Areas of Influence: A Special Case).
Each Area of Influence shapefile must contain features and attributes for only one species. Any shapefiles that contain data for multiple species must first be split into separate shapefiles containing only one species each. All features must be of the multi-polygon type.
A shapefile is actually a collection of files. The following files must be provided for each Current Range or Area of Influence that is uploaded for a given species:
.shp –Feature data (the shapefile)
.dbf – Attribute table
.shx – Shape index file
.prj – Projection file
.xml – Metadata file (see below for additional information)
All uploaded shapefiles must comply with the following shapefile naming convention. This naming convention applies to the prefix of all components of the shapefile, including the metadata record.
SPCODE: 4-character alphanumeric species code
VIPCODE: 3-character alphanumeric species code
ORGCODE: 5-character numeric office code (This is the orgcode for the office that is uploading the data, not the species lead office.)
The SPCODE and VIPCODE for any listed entity can be searched for at https://ecos.fws.gov/tess/speciesModule/PopulationSearchForm.do. Once you find the desired entity in the search results, click on its “View/Edit” button. A page that includes the SPCODE and VIPCODE will be displayed.
For a Area of Influence shapefile prefix for the Marbled Murrelet where:
SPCODE = B08C
VIPCODE = V02
ORGCODE = 99999
Shapefile prefix = B08C_V02_99999
Species range shapefiles should be in Geographic Coordinate System – NAD83 datum (GCS83). Custom projections do not work and are not supported. All uploaded shapefiles MUST possess a projection file (.prj). All shapefiles not possessing a .prj file will be rejected, and the user will be prompted to add this file before upload.
Features containing many vertices can lead to poor system performance, not only during shapefile upload, but also during species-list generation in IPaC and displaying of ranges in the ECOS Species Module range mapper. Therefore, please follow these recommendations:
All shapefiles must have valid geometry before uploading. In ArcGIS, run the “Check Geometry” or “Repair Geometry” tool as necessary on each shapefile before upload. If you are using another GIS application to develop your datasets, consult the documentation on geometry validation and geometry correction methods available for that GIS software.
Performing this validation ensures that all multi-polygons conform to the OpenGIS Simple Features Specification. This ensures that
Offices uploading spatial Area of Influence data have two options for dealing with Conditional Areas of Influence:
The second alternative is encouraged, as it will permit more refined handling of Conditional Areas of Influence in the future. Typically, Conditional Area of Influence polygons will be larger than, and overlap, the Standard Area of Influence polygons.
Polygons that address Conditional Areas of Influence for a species should have the following attribute:
Description: A value of 1 indicates this polygon represents a Conditional Area of Influence. A value of 0, or absence of the attribute, means the polygon represents a Standard Area of Influence.
Type: Short Integer
If the IS_COND attribute is true, the following attribute should also be provided:
Description: Briefly describes the activities or circumstances under which this range polygon should be applied (e.g., a list of activities that have far-reaching effects). This attribute is ignored if the IS_COND attribute is not provided or not equal to 1.
Length: Up to 254 characters
Any other spatial data attributes provided with the shapefiles will be ignored by the IPaC system.
All species range shapefiles are required to have FGDC-compliant metadata records. The metadata records can be created using the ESRI ArcGIS metadata tools or using other FGDC-compliant metadata creation tools. Please refer to the FGDC Metadata website at http://www.fgdc.gov/metadata/ for detailed information on metadata standards, minimal metadata record requirements, and metadata document creation tools.
The naming convention for the metadata files is the same as for other shapefile files. See Section 6.5 Shapefile Naming Convention for a description of the required filename prefixes.
Revisions to species ranges can be made by uploading a new zip file containing replacement shapefile(s). The species range contained in the new file will replace all range data previously uploaded by your office for that species. The naming convention and all shapefile specifications stated for original shapefiles also apply to replacement shapefiles. All associated files, including updated metadata, must be uploaded in a single .zip file with each revision.
Got questions? Getting stuck? Submit a help ticket to the ECOS Help Desk (in the Species Module, click on the “help desk” link at the upper right or “Contact ECOS” at page bottom) or call 970-266-2999 between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
 These internal links jump directly to the named section. To return to the original page, click <ALT>+left arrow key.
 Only Areas of Influence can be “Conditional.”