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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.

1.    The Importance of Species Range Data

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.)

2.    Area of Influence and the IPaC System

2.1    How IPaC Works

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

  • receive information regarding potential natural resources (including listed species and critical habitat) that may be affected by the proposed activities,
  • develop conservation measures that can be incorporated into their project designs to address anticipated impacts,
  • identify appropriate agency contacts, and
  • construct and submit documents that will be needed to complete Section 7 consultation and NEPA review processes.

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.

2.2    Species Lists

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.

2.3    Conservation Measures

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.

2.4    Monitoring and Reporting

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.

3.    Defining Species Ranges

3.1    What Is a Species Current Range?

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[1] below may be pertinent as well in defining Current Range.

3.2    What Is a Species Area of Influence?

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.  

3.3    What Is a Conditional Area of Influence?

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.[2] 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.

3.4    Factors to Consider When Developing Species Areas of Influence

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.

3.4.1   Areas where the species is known to exist (Current Range)

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.

3.4.2   Areas where habitat conditions are believed to be suitable for the species

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.

3.4.3   Areas without good information regarding species or habitat presence

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.

3.4.4   Habitat types

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.

3.4.5   Activity types

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).

3.4.6   Important Recovery Areas

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.


The Area of Influence is not only a depiction of simply where a species is known to exist, but also includes locations in which project proponents need to consider the potential of their proposed actions to affect listed resources.

3.5    For What Areas Should Areas of Influence Be Provided?

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 
(703) 358-2371.

4.    Types of Species Range Data

Field offices can enter their Current and Areas of Influence as either tabular or spatial data.

  • Tabular range data can be entered by county, watershed (HUC), quad, or quarter quad using picklists or a mapper. (See Section 5 Entering Tabular Range Data for details.)
  • Spatial range data is uploaded as zipped ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) shapefiles. (See Section 6 Uploading Spatial Range Data for more details.)

4.1    Choosing a Species Range Data Type

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:

  • Use shapefiles only for truly free-form polygonal data. Optimal granularity is achieved via shapefile submission, if the shapefile is more granular than mere spatial representations of one or more counties, HUCs, quadrangles, or quarter quadrangles—the range basis choices for tabular data. If your shapefiles are merely spatial representations of one of the four range bases, please enter the data in tabular form.
  • For tabular data, offices should enter Current Range and Area of Influence data in the most granular (i.e., precise) data type available. For example, if you enter Area of Influence data for a population expressed using quadrangles as a range basis, but also happened to have converted this data into a county list, please use the more fine-grained quadrangle version.  (Note, however, that different offices may choose different data types for the same species, possibly due to differences in data granularity.)

5.    Entering Tabular Range Data

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 [edit]. 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:

  • Select land units from the picklist provided on the Edit page.
  • Select land units using the mapper by clicking [edit via map] on the Edit page.

Using either method, tabular species range data can be defined by any one of four units:

  1. Counties:Search within your jurisdiction by
    1. County name (e.g., Apache)

  2. Watersheds (HUCs):Search within your jurisdiction by
    1. Eight-digit USGS Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) (e.g., 14070006), and/or
    2. Hydrologic Unit Name (e.g., Animas Valley)

  3. USGS 7.5-minute Quads (DOQs):Scroll through the list or search by
    1. 7.5-minute Digital Orthophoto Quadrangle (DOQ) ID (e.g., 34111-D8) and/or
    2. Quad Name (e.g., Albuquerque East).

  4. USGS Quarter Quads (DOQQs):Scroll through the list or search by
    1. Quarter-quad name including quadrant specification (e.g., Albuquerque East NW). Also helpful, but not necessary if you don’t already have it, is the DOQ ID (e.g., 34111-D8).

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] 

5.1      Entering Range Data Using the Editor

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.

5.2      Entering Range Data Using the ECOS Mapper

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:

  1. Click on unselected units to add them to the Current Range. Once selected, they will appear in blue.
  2. Click on selected units to remove them from the Current Range. The color will return to the map base color (in the editor layer).
  3. You can also use the bulk editing buttonsto make Current Ranges and Areas of Influence identical (IF both are tabular). If the Current Ranges and Areas of Influence are different  and you want them to be identical, you have three options:

    1. Replace the Current Range with the Area of Influence.
    2. Replace the Area of Influence with the Current Range.
    3. Combine the two ranges. This sets each range to the sum of both ranges. For example, if the Current Range includes Counties 1 and 2, and the Area of Influence includes Counties 2 and 3, both ranges will now include Counties 1, 2, and 3.

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.


  • When using the mapper, it can take time for the ranges to update and show in the appropriate color.
  • Conditional Area of Influence cannot be edited in the mapper because it does not map in tabular form.


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.

6.    Uploading Spatial Range Data

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.

6.1    Shapefile Upload Page

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 (

Follow these steps to open the shapefile upload page:

  1. Login to ECOS.
  2. On your ECOS home page, click the “TESS” link.
  3. Click on “Upload Documents and Data” under the “Modules” section on the left navigation menu.
  4. In the “Select a document or data type” field, click the down arrow and choose whichever is appropriate, “Species Area of Influence Shapefile” or “Species Current Range Shapefile.”

6.2    Shapefile Format

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).

6.3    Spatial Data Content

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.

6.4    File Requirements

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)

6.5    Shapefile Naming Convention

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 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:



ORGCODE = 99999

you get:

Shapefile prefix = B08C_V02_99999

6.6    Spatial Dataset Projection

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.

6.7    Feature Resolution and Complexity

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:

  • Use the recommended spatial resolution of 10 meters (minimum distance between points) for your shapefiles. Data sets with a resolution greater than 
    10 m should be generalized to 10 m or coarser before upload. Note that shapefiles derived from base layers that are calculated rather than manually drawn are more likely to exceed the 10-m resolution limit. You can reduce the resolution by simplifying the shapefile before upload. For example, with ESRI's ArcMap application, one can perform the simplification operation Data Management Tools -> Generalization -> Simplify Polygon. We recommend a simplification tolerance of at least 1 meter (the tolerance is the maximum deviation between the original polygon and the resulting polygon).
  • Avoid polygons with many vertices. Even after simplifying your shapefile, you may have multi-polygons containing polygons with many vertices. IPaC species-list generation, for example, can take a long time within or near your species’ Area of Influence if your range shapefile contains polygons with more than 30,000 vertices. Please break such polygons up into multiple smaller polygons prior to upload.


You need not manually break up multi-polygons with more than 30,000 vertices. The shapefile upload software detects such multi-polygons and automatically breaks them up into smaller multi-polygons, replicating all feature attributes. However, the system cannot do the same for individual polygons within the multi-polygons.
  • Avoid high numbers of features. One might be tempted to go to the other extreme and build a shapefile with a very large number of features (multi-polygons), each containing a very small number of polygons and vertices. However, such shapefiles can take a very long time to upload. We recommend no more than 500 features.

6.8    Geometry Validation

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

  • The shell and holes of polygons do not self-intersect.
  • Holes touch the shell or another hole at a single point only. This means that holes don’t intersect one another at multiple points or in a line segment.
  • Polygon interiors are connected. (This is implied by the previous statement.)
  • The element polygons in a multi-polygon touch at only a finite number of points (e.g., they do not touch in a line segment).
  • The interiors of the element polygons in a multi-polygon are disjoint (i.e., they do not cross).

6.9    Conditional Areas of Influence: A Special Case

Offices uploading spatial Area of Influence data have two options for dealing with Conditional Areas of Influence:

  1. Enlarge the species’ standard Area of Influence polygon(s) to encompass the “far-reaching effects” areas of concern (Conditional Area of Influence). This is essentially a decision to not provide Conditional Areas of Influence for now and will result in overly inclusive species lists being generated.
  2. Create distinct polygons—separate from the Standard Area of Influence polygons— that map the Conditional Area of Influence and are distinguished as such in the shapefile (i.e., as “Conditional Area of Influence” per the instructions in the next section).

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.


For a given species, Standard and Conditional Area of Influence polygons should be uploaded in the same shapefile. This works because far-reaching effects polygons (Conditional Area of Influence) will (and must) be designated as such by attribute, as described in the next section.

6.9.1   Spatial Data Attributes for Conditional Areas of Influence

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.

Type: Text

Length: Up to 254 characters

Any other spatial data attributes provided with the shapefiles will be ignored by the IPaC system.

6.10   Required Shapefile Metadata

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  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.

6.11   Updating Spatial Data

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.

7.    Getting Help

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.

[1] These internal links jump directly to the named section. To return to the original page, click <ALT>+left arrow key.

[2] Only Areas of Influence can be “Conditional.”


 [WJ1]Jim says he can provide when system is resurrected.

 [WJ2]If we don't have one already, we should have a chapter in range user guide about shapefiles, AND/OR a ppt tutorial with visuals.


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