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Question 7 - Impact on Plants and Animals - Full EAF (Part 2)

Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) Workbook

The proposed action may result in a loss of flora or fauna.

A fawn hidden in the bush
Fawn in Forest Fern by Laurie Dirkx

This question asks the reviewing agency to evaluate potential impacts to plants and animals. Some of the sub-questions that follow are specifically related to threatened, endangered, rare species, or species of special concern, significant natural communities and natural landmarks. However, other sub-questions explore impacts to the predominant species using the site or impacts to large areas of habitats that are not fragmented.

Habitats are used by all fauna (insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals, birds) for breeding, hibernation, reproduction, feeding, sheltering, migration or overwintering. The habitats may be used year-round, seasonally, or on a transient basis (passing through the area or during migration.) For threatened and endangered animals species, modification of their habitats not only adversely affect the animals and their ability to survive, but could be considered a 'take' which may require an incidental take permit under 6NYCRR Part 182, from DEC.

Unless the project has no land disturbances, or if it redevelops a location that has already been cleared, some vegetation (flora) will likely be removed. This removal represents a loss of both plants and the habitats it provides. Once habitats are lost, then there is likely to be a loss of fauna as well. As habitats are lost, animals could die due to lack of food or cover, or may move to other locations, if available.

To answer this question

Review Part 1 questions E.2.m., E.2.n., E.2.o., E.2.p., and E.2.q.

If the proposed project does not involve any loss of flora and its associated fauna, then check 'No' and move on to question 8.

If the project includes land disturbances that will remove terrestrial or aquatic plants there also will likely be some level of animal loss. Therefore, where land clearing and grading occur and vegetation will be removed, check 'Yes' to Question 7 and then answer sub-questions (a) through (j).

Identifying potential impacts

The reviewing agency should evaluate the following sub-questions and decide if there will be any impact. If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact, and decide if the impact will be small or moderate to large. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review.

  • If the proposed project exceeds a numeric threshold in a question, it is presumed to be a moderate to large impact.
  • If the proposed project does not exceed a numeric threshold in a question, the reviewing agency should consider the scale and context of the project in determining if an impact may be small or moderate to large.
  • These sub-questions are not meant to be exhaustive. The reviewing agency should use the "Other impacts:" sub-question to include any additional elements they feel need to be analyzed for potential impacts.

a. The proposed action may cause reduction in population or loss of individuals of any threatened or endangered species, as listed by New York State or the Federal government, that use the site, or are found on, over, or near the site.

b. The proposed action may result in a reduction or degradation of any habitat used by any rare, threatened or endangered species, as listed by New York State or the federal government.

Karner Blue butterfly on a plant
Two Bald Eagles standing on a tree limb

Threatened and endangered species are protected by both State and federal laws. These two sub-questions evaluate the potential impacts to both individual threatened or endangered plants or animals and their habitats.

New York State also classifies certain animal species as Special Concern and certain rare plant species as Rare. The Natural Heritage Program ranks rare animals and rare plants, including endangered and threatened species.

A project site may be used in several different ways. Locations where plants are found are considered habitat because it provides the right environmental conditions for the plants growth and reproduction. Animals use their habitat for feeding, cover, reproduction, and migration. Because animals are mobile, they could pass through the project area on a daily or seasonal basis as they travel from one place within their range to another. Or, the site itself may be important for feeding, breeding, or cover. For birds, large areas of contiguous tree cover may be needed to allow them to travel from one location to another. Further, the project site can serve as an important buffer that protects the primary habitats of threatened and endangered species that are found nearby.

A reduction in a threatened or endangered population can result if there is either mortality of individuals or loss of habitat. Because there is a close relationship between loss of individuals and populations (sub-question (a)) and loss of habitats (Sub-question (b)), reviewing agencies should carefully consider these questions together and in the larger context of the needs of those species. A project site may be a rare, critical location that endangered and threatened species depend solely on. Or, it may not be a rare habitat, but may be part of a much larger area needed to support the individuals that are part of the population.

When evaluating these questions, consider if there will be loss of populations, individuals or their habitats only for those species found on, adjacent or near the project site.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.2.o., and E.2.p.

Analysis

  • Are there any threatened or endangered individuals identified on, adjacent to or near the project site?
    • Evaluate loss of habitats, populations or individuals only for those species.
  • What habitats needed by threatened or endangered species are found on the project site?
  • Is the habitat rare?
  • Is the project site part of a larger range that supports an endangered or threatened population?
  • Are there any actions proposed that will reduce the size, structure or other features of the habitats but not totally remove it from the project site?
  • Is there a barrier proposed as part of the action that will hinder or harm key migration patterns?
  • What percentage of the project site contains habitats used by rare, threatened or endangered species and what portion of that will be impacted?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no rare habitats on the project site, or if no endangered or threatened species are known to be on, adjacent or near the project site, there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

It is likely that a small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Rare or threatened species are found near or on adjacent parcels but there is no habitat found on the project site.
  • Rare or threatened species or their habitats are found on the site but construction or operation activities will avoid impairment of their habitats and not impair the animals' ability to use the site.
  • Rare and threatened species or their habitats are found on the site, some construction or operation activities will remove or impair a small portion of the habitat but mitigation is planned to create or permanently protect remaining and other critical areas for those species.
  • Species are found traveling through or flying over the project site, and the activities are such that these travel patterns will not be disrupted. Important travel corridors are identified and all natural vegetation is protected to allow wildlife travel.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Large portions of habitats known to be used by threatened and endangered species will be removed, including removal of vegetation, cutting dead trees down, grading cliffs, or fragmenting large areas of potential habitats to create islands of remaining habitat.
  • Fencing or walls will be constructed around the property limiting wildlife access to the site even though the habitat may remain.
  • Specific features of importance to the threatened and endangered species will be destroyed such as grasslands, dead trees, riffle and pool areas in the stream, removal of all underbrush, or removal of prime nesting trees or winter habitats.

c. The proposed action may cause reduction in population, or loss of individuals, of any species of special concern or conservation need, as listed by New York State or the Federal government, that use the site, or are found on, over, or near the site.

d. The proposed action may result in a reduction or degradation of any habitat used by any species of special concern and conservation need, as listed by New York State or the Federal government.

f. The proposed action may result in the removal of, or ground disturbance in, any portion of a designated significant natural community. Source:

(Note: See sub-question e. below)

New York State also classifies certain plant and animal species as Special Concern and certain plant species as Rare being rare, or as a species of special concern. Species of special concern refers to those species that warrant attention and consideration but current information, collected by DEC, does not justify listing these species as either endangered or threatened. The Natural Heritage Program ranks rare animals and rare plants, including Species of Special Concern.

The reviewing agency will need to look beyond the boundaries of the project site during the SEQR evaluation. A project site may be used in several different ways. Locations where plants are found are considered habitat because it provides the right environmental conditions for the plants growth and reproduction. Animals use their habitat for feeding, cover, reproduction, and migration. Because animals are mobile, they could pass through the project area on a daily or seasonal basis as they travel from one place within their range to another. Or, the site itself may be important for feeding, breeding, or cover. For birds, large areas of contiguous tree cover may be needed to allow them to travel from one location to another. Further, the project site can serve as an important buffer that protects the primary habitats of species of special concern that are found nearby.

Significant Natural Communities include rare or high-quality wetlands, forests, grasslands, ponds, streams, and other types of habitats, ecosystems, and ecological areas. They serve as habitat for a wide range of plants and animals, both rare and common; and are important because natural communities in good condition provide ecological value and services.

NY Natural Heritage documents only those locations of natural communities where the community type is rare in New York State; or, for more common community types, where the community at that location is a high-quality example and meets specific, documented criteria for state significance in terms of size, undisturbed and intact condition, and the quality of the surrounding landscape.

A reduction in a population of species of special concern can occur if there is either mortality of individuals or loss of habitat. Because there is a close relationship between loss of individuals and populations and loss of habitats, reviewing agencies should carefully consider these questions together and in the larger context of the needs of those species. A project site may be a rare, critical location that species of special concern depend solely on. Or, it may not be a rare habitat, but may be part of a much larger area needed to support the individuals that are part of the population.

When evaluating these questions, consider if there will be loss of populations, individuals or their habitats for those species found on, adjacent or near the project site.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.2.p., and E.2.n.

Analysis

  • Are there any listed species of special concern found on, adjacent to or near the project site?
    • Evaluate loss of habitats, populations or individuals only for those species.
  • Does the project site contain habitats needed by species of special concern that are identified there?
    • If yes, what are the habitat components of importance?
  • Is the habitat rare?
  • Is the project site part of a larger range that supports a species of special concern population?
  • Are there any actions proposed that will reduce the size, structure or other features of the habitats but not totally remove it from the project site?
    • If so, what percentage of the project site contains habitats used by species of special concern and what portion of that will be impacted?
  • Are there any locations on the project site identified as part of a designated significant natural community?
    • If so, how large an area is it and what portion of that will be impacted by the project?
    • If so, how will that natural community be degraded?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no species of special concern on, adjacent or near the project site, if there are no habitats used by species of special concern or in conservation need, or if there are no designated significant natural communities identified on the project site, there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

It is likely that a small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Species of special concern are found near or adjacent to the project site but there is no habitat found on the project site.
  • Rare or threatened species or their habitats are found on the site but construction or operation activities will avoid impairment of their habitats and not impair the animals' ability to use the site.
  • Construction will take place within a portion of the habitat on site but will be done during a season when the species is not present, and vegetation will be replaced in the same location after construction.
  • Species of special concern or their habitats are found on the site, some construction or operation activities will remove or impair a small portion of the habitat but mitigation is planned to create or permanently protect remaining and other critical areas for those species.
  • Species are found traveling through or flying over the project site, and the activities are such that these travel patterns will not be disrupted. Important travel corridors are identified and all natural vegetation is protected to allow wildlife travel.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Large portions of habitats known to be used by special concern species will be removed, including removal of vegetation, cutting dead trees down, grading cliffs, or fragmenting large areas of potential habitats to create islands of remaining habitat or removing other habitat features.
  • Fencing, walls, or other barriers will be constructed around or on the property limiting wildlife access to the site even though the habitat may remain.
  • Specific features of importance to the species of special concern species will be destroyed such as grasslands, dead trees, riffle and pool areas in the stream, removal of all underbrush, or removal of prime nesting trees or winter habitats.

e. The proposed action may diminish the capacity of a registered National Natural Landmark to support the biological community it was established to protect.

The National Natural Landmarks (NNL) is a voluntary program that recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources. National Natural Landmarks are selected for their outstanding condition, illustrative value, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education. Sites are designated by the Secretary of the Interior, with landowner concurrence. To-date, there are 27 National Natural Landmarks designated in New York State. These are found in the following counties: Albany, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Clinton, Dutchess, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Livingston, Monroe, Onondaga, Orleans, Rockland, Saratoga, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Suffolk, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, and Westchester. You can learn more about the National Natural Landmarks Program by visiting their website.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.3.c.

Analysis

  • Is there a NNL on the project site, and if so, how large is it and what portion of the project site does it occupy?
  • Will any proposed project activities remove or disturb that NNL?
    • If so, what portion of the NNL will be removed or disturbed?
  • Does the NNL extend to other locations around the proposed project site?

Will there be an impact?

If no registered National Natural Landmarks exist on the project site, then there will not be any related impacts. Check "No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur if:

  • A portion of a NNL exists on the property site and will be removed, but it also extends beyond the site to include a much larger area and the portion to be removed is less than a few percent of the total area.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Large portions of the NNL will be disturbed or removed.
  • Portions of the NNL natural vegetation will be removed, and although there are other significant sections remaining, the habitat is now fragmented and not likely to support the species that rely on it.
  • One component of the vegetation, such as mature canopy trees, are to be removed, thus destroying an ecological layer required by many bird and mammal species.

g. The proposed action may substantially interfere with nesting/breeding, foraging, or over-wintering habitat for the predominant species that occupy or use the project site.

This question explores the role the project site plays in the area's ecology and bio-diversity. The use of the term 'predominant' is intended to be synonymous with 'common', and describes species that are abundant in a natural community. Habitats are used in different ways, depending on the species. Some areas have just the right conditions that make an area attractive for breeding and nesting. For example, the ground is covered with abundant herbaceous growth that shelters ground nesting birds, or an area of the stream has a bank overhanging the water that provides shade and protection. Other areas provide abundant food sources while others have features that make the area attractive for hibernation or winter travel.

Actions can interfere with nesting/breeding, foraging or overwintering habitat by removal of vegetation or by changing the conditions of that habitat such as altering the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, the temperature of the water, or removal of important habitat features such as rocky outcrops or dead trees used for nesting. Other features of the proposed project can also interfere with those activities by creating excessive noise, placement of buildings in a location that disrupts travel, or placement of bright lights. In order to answer this question, the reviewing agency may need to find out, or ask the applicant to supply information on the basic habitat needs of the predominant species found at the site.

A substantial interference is not specifically defined in SEQR, but should be considered by the reviewing agency in relation to the scale and context of the site and project. In general, a 'substantial' interference would be when the change to the habitat features on the project site are of considerable importance, large in size or quantity, or when the habitat is largely, but not wholly affected. An example of a substantial interference is the removal of 8 out of 10 acres of northern hardwood forest existing on a site. Or, building of a road and 15,000 square foot building in the middle of a large, unbroken expanse of forest that would fragment the habitat and reduce its value to those species needing large areas of unbroken forest.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.2.m.

Analysis

  • What habitat requirements do those predominant species have?
  • How do those predominant species use the project site?
    • Breeding, feeding, cover, or all the individual needs?
  • Do species use the project site year round or seasonally?
  • Will project activities disturb or remove the vegetation or important habitat features?
  • Are there similar habitats adjacent to or nearby?

Will there be an impact?

A proposed project would be considered to have no impact if habitats for predominant species are not affected at all. An example would be a redevelopment project that is contained to previously disturbed portions of a site, and does not disturb any existing natural habitat. Infill development in a highly urban area of a site or sites with no natural land cover may also be considered to have no impact.

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A very limited amount of vegetation and habitat features will be removed leaving the large majority of habitat available.
  • No excessive noise, lights, fences, or walls will be part of the project and won't interfere with the ecology and ability of the species to survive.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A large percentage of the vegetation is removed and replaced with lawns or other cover types and structures.
  • A major feature of the habitat is removed, such as removal of all ground vegetation.
  • Large areas of trees will be selectively removed to thin the forest and allow more sunlight to reach the ground. This will change the ecology of the forest and thus the species that will live there.
  • The project will include structures built along areas known to be important overwintering or travel corridors.
  • Fencing or walls are placed that will prevent normal movement from one location to another.
  • Bright lights will be placed that will interfere with nocturnal species.

h. The proposed action requires the conversion of more than 10 acres of forest, grassland or any other regionally or locally important habitat.
Habitat type & information source:

Many species of wildlife need large areas of their habitats. Some need not only large areas, but also those that are not fragmented by roads, buildings, or other man-made structures. When forests, grasslands, and other regionally or locally important habitats are fragmented by development, those areas can become less attractive to wildlife and biodiversity can decrease. Individual animal survival can be diminished and populations reduced when these habitats are disrupted. This question explores whether large areas, greater than 10 acres in size are fragmented or converted to other uses.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.1.b.

Analysis

  • Is the project site larger than 10 acres and contain vegetation similar to that found on a larger area of land?
  • How many acres of the cover type will be converted?
  • Does the proposed action fragment this larger area?

Will there be an impact?

If no lands are disrupted and converted to another land use, then there will be no related impact. Check "No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • If a very small portion of a very large site is disrupted and converted to another land use. For example, a one acre conversion may have a small impact when the remaining 300 acres of grassland still exists.
  • If 1 to 10 acres are disrupted and converted, impacts may be small if there are similar remaining lands that are of significant size, or it is a highly disturbed site to begin with.
  • The loss does not fragment significant habitats.
  • The new land use is not growth inducing so that over time more of the habitat will be not lost to subsequent development.
  • Some land will be converted but the remaining land is still of intact and significant size and the applicant will place a conservation easement on the remainder of the land to protect it.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A very large proportion or the entire site is disrupted and converted to another land use.
  • More than 10 acres are disrupted and converted.
  • The loss creates a fragmented habitat.
  • The loss removes small, but critical areas, such as vernal pools and their surrounding uplands that are required for amphibian breeding.
  • Critical vegetation known for creating important fish breeding sites will be removed.
  • Critical features known to be important to species will be removed.

i. Proposed action (commercial, industrial or recreational projects, only) involves use of herbicides or pesticides.

According to Part 325: Application of Pesticides,

  • Pesticide includes all herbicides and means:
  1. Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, fungi, weeds, or other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living humans /or other animals, which the department shall declare to be a pest; and
  2. Any substance or mixture of substances intended as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.
  • Pesticide use means:
  1. Performance of the following pesticide-related activities: application; mixing; loading; transport, storage or handling after manufacturer's seal is broken; cleaning of pesticide application equipment; and any required preparation for container disposal.

This question applies to commercial, industrial or recreational projects only. It includes pesticide use on the land and in aquatic environments. Include occasional and regular pesticide use. Evaluate use of pesticides in relation to degrading or removing plants, potential adverse impacts to wildlife, and risks for polluting surface waterbodies.

Applicable Part 1 Information

D.2.q.

Analysis

  • Is the pesticide intended to control animals or plants?
  • Will the pesticide be used to remove all or part of the vegetation on site?
  • What risks to non-target species are associated with application of those pesticides?
  • What methods are being proposed to prevent or minimize impacts to water quality?
  • Is the pesticide application one time, on a regular basis, or seasonal?

Will there be an impact?

If no pesticides are being applied on the project site, then there will be no related impacts. Check "No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A small area will be impacted and that area is isolated so that pesticides do not travel into stormwater runoff.
  • Pesticide will be done on a one time basis.
  • Integrated pest management methods will be used on a small area of land, such as around a commercial building.
  • There are no surface water bodies nearby and stormwater control devices will collect and capture chemicals.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Large areas will be impacted.
  • There is risk for pesticides to be picked up in stormwater and carried to surface water bodies, including wetlands both on and off-site. Integrated pest management is not being uses.
  • Pesticide use will be done on a regular or seasonal basis, such as at a golf course.
  • Herbicides will be used to remove many plants over large areas that may be habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife species.

j. Other impacts:

There may be other impacts identified by the reviewing agency that are not addressed by the above questions. If so, they should be identified and briefly described here.

Some proposed actions may have beneficial impacts on the environment. The reviewing agency can use the 'other' category for that purpose, too.

Back to Part 2 (FEAF) Identification of Potential Project Impacts || Continue to Part 2 (FEAF) Question 8 Impact on Agricultural Resources


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