Species Status Codes
Provided below are definitions for species conservation status ranks, categories and other codes
designated by MTNHP, Federal and State Agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Species of Concern
Species of Concern are native taxa that are at-risk due to declining population
trends, threats to their habitats, restricted distribution, and/or other factors.
Designation as a Montana Species of Concern or Potential Species of Concern is
based on the Montana Status Rank, and is not a statutory or regulatory classification.
Rather, these designations provide information that helps resource managers make
proactive decisions regarding species conservation and data collection priorities.
See the latest Species of Concern Reports
for more detailed explanations and assessment criteria.
Special Status Species
Special Status Species are species that have some legal protections in place, but are otherwise not
recognized as federally listed under the Endangered Species Act and are not Montana Species of Concern.
Bald Eagles are a Special Status Species because, although they are no longer protected under the Endangered
Species Act and are also no longer a Montana Species of Concern, they are still protected under the
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (16 U.S.C. 668-668c).
Potential Species of Concern
Potential Species of Concern are native taxa for which current, often limited,
information suggests potential vulnerability. Also included are animal
species which additional data are needed before an accurate status assessment
can be made.
Status Under Review
Species designated "Status Under Review" are plant species that require additional
information and currently do not have a status rank but may warrant future consideration
as Species of Concern. This category also includes plant species whose status rank
is questionable due to the availability of new information or the availability of conflicting
or ambiguous information or data. Species listed in this category will be reviewed
periodically or as new information becomes available.
Important Animal Habitat
Habitats that are especially important for sustaining populations of individual species or multiple species
during particular time periods or throughout the year are designated "Important Animal Habitat".
These areas include: (1) bat roosting areas such as maternity roosts, hibernacula, and bachelor roosts;
(2) bird rookeries where species congregate in large numbers to breed, incubate eggs, and raise young
due to protections from predators or availability of critical resources; and (3) stopover areas for
migratory birds that provide critical food resources that sustain migration.
Important animal habitats that have been mapped are included with other information
that is provided for environmental reviews.
A Species Occurrence or "SO" (formerly called an 'Element Occurrence') is an area depicting only what is known
from direct observation with a defined level of certainty regarding the spatial location of the feature.
If an observation can be associated with a map feature that can be tracked (e.g., a wetland) then this polygon
feature is used to represent the SO. Areas that can be inferred as probable occupied habitat based on
direct observation of a species location and what is known about the foraging area or home range size of the
species may be incorporated into the Species Occurrence. A Species Occurrence generally falls into one
of the following three categories:
A documented location of a specimen collection or observed plant population. In some instances,
adjacent, spatially separated clusters are considered subpopulations and are grouped as one occurrence
(e.g., the subpopulations occur in ecologically similar habitats, and are within approximately one air mile of one another).
The location of a specimen collection or of a verified sighting; known or assumed to represent a breeding population.
Additional collections or sightings are often appended to the original record.
Significant biological features not included in the above categories, such as bird rookeries, peatlands,
or state champion trees.
Exotic species have been deliberately or accidentally introduced to areas outside of their native
geographic range and are able to reproduce and maintain sustainable populations in these areas.
These exotic populations may also be referred to as alien, introduced, invasive, non-native, or
Species that arrived in Montana via unknown or uncommon circumstances, which could include weather related
events or other migratory disturbances.
The term Accidental Species is often assigned to species that have less than 20 verified observations in Montana.
Plants species that are deemed to be invasive and possess the capacity to negatively impact the state's natural vegetation
communities and agricultural lands. Only species which are introduced (not native) to Montana may be designated as
Noxious Weeds. Noxious Weeds are defined in state law as exotic species which may render land unfit for agriculture,
forestry, livestock, wildlife, or other beneficial uses or that may harm native plant communities and are determined by
Rule of the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) under the provisions of the Montana County Weed Control Act.
Individual counties may further designate species as Noxious Weeds in their respective jurisdictions.
For additional information please visit:
Regulated plants are introduced species that have the potential to cause significant negative impacts in the state.
These plants may not be intentionally spread or sold, but unlike designated Noxious Weeds control measures or management
are not mandated. These species are determined by Rule of the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) under the
provisions of the Montana County Weed Control Act.
For additional information please visit:
Montana Species Ranking Codes
Montana employs a standardized ranking system to denote
global (range-wide) and state status (NatureServe 2006).
Species are assigned numeric ranks ranging from 1 (highest risk, greatest concern)
to 5 (demonstrably secure), reflecting the relative degree of risk to the species’
viability, based upon available information.
A number of factors are considered in assigning ranks — the number, size and quality of known occurrences or
populations, distribution, trends (if known), intrinsic vulnerability, habitat specificity, and definable threats.
The process of assigning state ranks for each taxon relies heavily on the number of occurrences and Species Occurrence
(OE) ranks, which is a ranking system of the quality (usually A through D) of each known occurrence based on factors such
as size (# of individuals) and habitat quality. The remaining factors noted above are also incorporated into the
ranking process when they are known. The “State Rank Reason” field in the
Montana Field Guide provides additional information on the reasons for a particular species’ rank.
At high risk because of extremely limited and/or rapidly declining population numbers, range and/or habitat,
making it highly vulnerable to global extinction or extirpation in the state.
At risk because of very limited and/or potentially declining population numbers, range and/or habitat,
making it vulnerable to global extinction or extirpation in the state.
Potentially at risk because of limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be
abundant in some areas.
||Apparently secure, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, and/or suspected to be declining.
||Common, widespread, and abundant (although it may be rare in parts of its range). Not vulnerable in most of its range.
Presumed Extinct or Extirpated - Species is believed to be extinct throughout its range or extirpated in Montana.
Not located despite intensive searches of historical sites and other appropriate habitat, and small likelihood that it will ever be rediscovered.
||Historical, known only from records usually 40 or more years old; may be rediscovered.
||Not Ranked as of yet.
Unrankable - Species currently unrankable due to lack of information or due to substantially conflicting
information about status or trends.
A conservation status rank is not applicable for one of the following reasons:
1) The taxa is of Hybrid Origin; is Exotic or Introduced; is Accidental or
2) is Not Confidently Present in the state. (see other codes below)
Combination or Range Ranks
Indicates a range of uncertainty about the status of the species
(e.g., G1G3 = Global Rank ranges between G1 and G3).
Indicates that populations in different geographic portions of the species' range in Montana
have a different conservation status
(e.g., S1 west of the Continental Divide and S4 east of the Continental Divide).
||Rank of a subspecies or variety. Appended to the global rank of the full species, e.g. G4T3
Questionable taxonomy that may reduce conservation priority-Distinctiveness
of this entity as a taxon at the current level is questionable; resolution of this
uncertainty may result in change from a species to a subspecies or hybrid, or inclusion
of this taxon in another taxon, with the resulting taxon having a lower-priority
(numerically higher) conservation status rank.
Appended to the global rank, e.g. G3Q
||Inexact Numeric Rank - Denotes uncertainty; inexactness.
||Hybrid - Entity not ranked because it represents an interspecific hybrid and not a species.
||Captive or Cultivated Only - Species at present exists only in captivity or cultivation, or as a reintroduced population not yet established.
Accidental - Species is accidental or casual in Montana, in other words, infrequent
and outside usual range. Includes species (usually birds or butterflies) recorded
once or only a few times at a location. A few of these species may have bred on the
few occasions they were recorded.
Synonym - Species reported as occurring in Montana, but the Montana Natural Heritage Program
does not recognize the taxon; therefore the species is not assigned a rank.
Breeding - Rank refers to the breeding population of the species in Montana.
Appended to the state rank, e.g. S2B,S5N = At risk during breeding season, but common in the winter
Nonbreeding - Rank refers to the non-breeding population of the species in Montana.
Appended to the state rank, e.g. S5B,S2N = Common during breeding season, but at risk in the winter
Migratory - Species occurs in Montana only during migration.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Endangered Species Act)
Status of a taxon under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973
(16 U.S.C.A. § 1531-1543 (Supp. 1996))
||Listed endangered: Any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(6)).
||Listed threatened: Any species likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (16 U.S.C. 1532(20)).
Candidate: Those taxa for which sufficient information on biological status and threats exists to
propose to list them as threatened or endangered. We encourage their consideration in environmental
planning and partnerships; however, none of the substantive or procedural provisions of the Act apply to
||Recovered, delisted, and being monitored - Any previously listed species that is now recovered, has been delisted, and is being monitored.
||Not listed - No designation.
||Experimental - Essential population - An experimental population whose loss would be likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival of the species in the wild.
||Experimental - Nonessential population - An experimental population of a listed species reintroduced into a specific area that receives more flexible management under the Act.
Critical Habitat - The specific areas (i) within the geographic
area occupied by a species, at the time it is listed, on which are found those
physical or biological features (I) essential to conserve the species and (II)
that may require special management considerations or protection; and (ii)
specific areas outside the geographic area occupied by the species at the time
it is listed upon determination that such areas are essential to conserve the species.
Partial status - status in only a portion of the species' range.
Typically indicated in a "full" species record where an infraspecific taxon or
population, that has a record in the database has USESA status, but the entire
species does not.
Partial status - status in only a portion of the species' range.
The value of that status appears in parentheses because the entity with status
is not recognized as a valid taxon by Central Sciences (usually a population
defined by geopolitical boundaries or defined administratively, such as
For example, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is ranked PS:C.
Partial Status - Candidate.
Designated as a Candidate in the Western U.S. Distinct Population Segment (DPS) (subspecies occidentalis)
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (BGEPA) -
(16 U.S.C. 668-668c) prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from taking bald or golden eagles,
including their parts, nests, or eggs. The BGEPA provides criminal and civil penalties for persons who take, possess, sell,
purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle ...
[or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof. The BGEPA defines take as pursue, shoot, shoot at,
poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb. "Disturb" means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle
to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle,
2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior,
or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior. In addition to
immediate impacts, this definition also covers impacts that result from human-induced alterations initiated around a previously
used nest site during a time when eagles are not present, if, upon the eagles return, such alterations agitate or bother an eagle
to a degree that injures an eagle or substantially interferes with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering habits and causes,
or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest abandonment.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) - (16 U.S.C. §§ 703-712, July 3, 1918, as amended 1936, 1960, 1968, 1969, 1974,
1978, 1986 and 1989) implements four treaties that provide for international protection of migratory birds. The
statute’s language is clear that actions resulting in a "taking" or possession (permanent or temporary) of a protected
species, in the absence of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) permit or regulatory authorization, are a violation
of the MBTA. The MBTA states, "Unless and except as permitted by regulations ... it shall be unlawful at any time,
by any means, or in any manner to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill ... possess, offer for sale, sell ... purchase
... ship, export, import ... transport or cause to be transported ... any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of
any such bird .... [The Act] prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation, import and export of migratory
birds, their eggs, parts, and nests, except when specifically authorized by the Department of the Interior."
The word "take" is defined by regulation as "to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or
attempt to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect." The USFWS maintains a
list of species protected by the MBTA
at 50 CFR 10.13. This list includes over one thousand species of migratory birds, including eagles and other raptors,
waterfowl, shorebirds, seabirds, wading birds, and passerines. The USFWS also maintains a
list of species not protected by the MBTA.
MBTA does not protect species that are not native to the United States or species groups not explicitly covered under the
MBTA; these include species such as the house (English) sparrow, European starling, rock dove (pigeon), Eurasian collared-dove,
and non-migratory upland game birds.
The 1988 amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act mandates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify
species, subspecies, and populations of all migratory nongame birds that, without additional conservation actions,
are likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Birds of Conservation Concern 2008 (BCC 2008)
is the most recent effort to carry out this mandate. The overall goal of this report is to accurately identify the
migratory and non-migratory bird species (beyond those already designated as federally threatened or endangered)
that represent the Service's highest conservation priorities.
Bureau of Land Management
BLM Sensitive Species are defined by the BLM 6840 Manual as those that normally occur
on Bureau administered lands for which BLM has the capability to significantly affect
the conservation status of the species through management. The State Director may
designate additional categories of special status species as appropriate and applicable
to his or her state's needs. The sensitive species designation, for species other
than federally listed, proposed, or candidate species, may include such native species
as those that:
- could become endangered in or extirpated from a state, or within a significant portion of its distribution in the foreseeable future,
- are under status review by FWS and/or NMFS,
- are undergoing significant current or predicted downward trends in habitat capability that would reduce a species’ existing distribution,
- are undergoing significant current or predicted downward trends in population or density such that federally listed, proposed, candidate, or State listed status may become necessary,
- have typically small and widely dispersed populations,
- are inhabiting ecological refugia, specialized or unique habitats, or
- are State listed but which may be better conserved through application of BLM sensitive species status. Such species should be managed to the level of protection required by State laws or under the BLM policy for candidate species, whichever would provide better opportunity for its conservation.
||Denotes species listed as sensitive on BLM lands
||Denotes species that are listed as Endangered or Threatened under the Endangered Species Act
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service Manual (2670.22) defines Sensitive Species on Forest Service lands as those for which
population viability is a concern as evidenced by a significant downward trend in population or a significant
downward trend in habitat capacity. The Regional Forester (Northern Region) designates Sensitive species
on National Forests in Montana. These designations were last updated in 2007 and they apply only on
||Listed as Endangered (LE) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
||Listed as Threatened (LT) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
||Listed as a Sensitive Species by USFS Northern Region (R1).
FWP Conservation Tier
In recent years states have received federal funding to develop Comprehensive Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Strategies. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks completed
Montana's Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy
in 2005. Under this conservation strategy individual animal species were assigned levels of
conservation need as follows:
Greatest conservation need. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has a clear
obligation to use its resources to implement conservation actions that provide
direct benefit to these species, communities, and focus areas.
Moderate conservation need. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks could use its
resources to implement conservation actions that provide direct benefit to these
species, communities, and focus areas.
Lower conservation need. Although important to Montana’s wildlife
diversity, these species, communities, and focus areas are either abundant and
widespread or are believed to have adequate conservation already in place.
Species that are non-native, incidental, or on the periphery of their range
and are either expanding or very common in adjacent states.
Percent of Global Breeding Range in MT
The percentage of the species’ Global Breeding Range represented by its Breeding Range in Montana.
Percent of MT that is Breeding Range
The percentage of Montana’s Total Area identified as the Breeding Range of this species.
A short description of the general habitat in which you are most likely to find this species.
Partners In Flight (PIF)
Partners In Flight (PIF) is a partnership
of federal and state agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, and many others,
with the goal of conserving North American birds. In 1991, PIF began developing a formal
species assessment process that could provide consistent, scientific evaluations of
conservation status across all bird species in North America, and identify areas most
important to the conservation of each species. This process applies quantitative rule
sets to complex biological data on the population size, distribution, population trend,
threats, and regional abundance of individual bird species to generate simple numerical
scores that rank each species in terms of its biological vulnerability and regional status.
The process results in global and regional conservation assessments of each bird species that,
among other uses, can be used to objectively assign regional and continental conservation
priorities among birds.
The species assessment scores and process has recently been updated! Check out the
new scores and make sure to
download and read the updated Handbook on Species Assessment,
which contains important information on the how scores are derived and used in the assessment
process. Note that currently only breeding-season regional scores are available for
BCRs. We hope to have non-breeding scores available soon. For those needing
access to the previous versions of the PIF Species Assessment Database, including past
regional scores for physiographic areas, click here.
Montana Native Plant Society (MNPS) Threat Category
The MNPS Threat Category process was initiated in 2006 at the Montana Plant Conservation Conference
with the formation of a committee represented by federal, state and private botanists, ecologists
and biologists. The objectives were to:
1) Evaluate threats impacting Montana's Plant Species of Concern and to classify species according to
their level of imperilment/risk as a result of these threats.
2) Develop a ranking system based on the impacts of the identified threats to the species' viability
in the state. The result of this process is a 4-tier threat ranking system for Plant Species of
Concern in Montana. The threat categories are:
The viability of the species in the state is Highly Threatened by one or more activities.
Associated threats have caused or are likely to cause a major reduction of the state population
or its habitat that will require 50 years or more for recovery, 20% or more of the state population
has been or will be affected, and the negative impact is occurring or is likely to occur within
the next 5 years.
The viability of the species or a portion of the species habitat in the state is Threatened by
one or more activities, though impacts to the species are expected to be less severe than those
in Category 1. Associated threats exist but are not as severe, wide-ranging or immediate
as for Category 1, though negative impacts are occurring or are likely to occur.
The viability of the species in the state is Not Threatened or the Threats are Insignificant.
Associated threats are either not known to exist, are not likely to occur in the near future or are
not known to be having adverse impacts that will severely affect the species' viability in the state.
Assessment not possible due to insufficient and/or conflicting information on potential threats to the species.
Please visit the MNPS website at http://www.mtnativeplants.org
for additional information on MNPS Threat Categories or for MNPS contact information.
Relative Density Map
Relative density maps display the relative density of observations submitted in each latilong, quarter latilong,
or quarter-quarter latilong. The maps are constructed by:
(1) calculating the total number of observations in each latilong block;
(2) counting the number of distinct total values;
(3) dividing the total number of distinct values by 5 to create 5 map classes
(any remainders are sequentially added to lower map classes); and
(4) color coding each latilong block with the corresponding map class.
Recency maps display the most recent observation reported in each latilong, quarter latilong, or quarter-quarter latilong
and color codes each as 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, and 20+ years ago.
Bird "Observation Type" Maps - Definition of STATUS
Each bird sighting is entered in our database with a "status" code (B, b, t, W, or w; see criteria below) to indicate information about the bird when
it was observed. The status of a bird describes whether it was breeding, presumed to be breeding, transient ("passing through"), or
wintering in the area in which it was seen.
There are two seasons which are important. The breeding season is defined by sightings made between February 16 and December 14;
while the winter season is defined by observations made between December 15 and February 15 (see below).
Data entered for each species represents the highest documented status for that species in that latilong or quarter latilong
("B" greater than "b" greater than "t"; and "W" greater than "w"). The symbols used are defined as follows:
|Breeding Season (February 16 - December 14)
Direct evidence of breeding. Use of the "B" to designate breeding requires "hard evidence." A "B"
can be hard to get. Breeding is not assumed simply by presence or behavior. "B" is used only if one of the following criteria are met:
- Occupied nest; adults entering or leaving nest site in circumstances indicating an occupied nest (includes high nests or nest-holes, the contents of which cannot be seen) or adult incubating or brooding.
- Recently fledged young (of altricial species) incapable of sustained flight, or downy young (of precocial species) restricted to the area by dependence on adults or limited mobility.
- Attending young; adult carrying food or fecal sac for young, or feeding recently fledged young.
- Used nest or eggshell found (Caution: identification must be convincing for such records to be accepted).
- Nest with egg(s) which can be clearly identified. The presence of cowbird eggs or young is confirmation of breeding for both cowbird and host species.
Indirect or circumstantial evidence of breeding.
- Singing males or territorial birds observed in suitable nesting habitat during the breeding season.
- Courtship behavior or copulation.
- Adults visiting a probable nest site.
- Agitation behavior, distraction display, feigning injury, or anxiety call from an adult.
- Nest building.
- Physiological evidence of breeding (brood patch or eggs in oviduct) based on bird in hand.
No evidence of breeding. Transients, migrants, or wide ranging species that exhibit no behavior at the time observed.
|Winter Season (December 15 - February 15)
Overwintering. Regular sightings during the winter period.
Overwintering not yet documented, but species observed at least once between December 15 and February 15.
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