Finding flexibility in Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act through adaptive governance

Hannah Gosnell, Brian C. Chaffin, J. B. Ruhl, Craig A. Tony Arnold, Robin K. Craig, Melinda H. Benson, Alan Devenish

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibits federal agency actions likely to jeopardize listed species or adversely modify critical habitat. Scholarship on the application of the ESA characterizes the process as unwaveringly rigid, a legal "hammer." This chapter draws on lessons derived from applying the ESA in the Klamath Basin along the Oregon-California border, where an integrated implementation strategy lessened rigidities and barriers to change. Collaboration among leaders in the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Bureau of Reclamation supported efforts to replace an ecologically and socially fragmented approach to ESA implementation that was fraught with conflict with a more adaptive, flexible, integrated approach to water sharing among competing interests. Keys to success included existing collaborative capacity related to improved tribal-irrigator relations and a shift in local agency culture facilitated by empathic leadership which led to a greater sense of shared responsibility for ESA compliance. This effort exemplifies governmental adaptive capacity for flexibility and evolution within constraints of formal law. A truly bioregional approach to endangered species recovery, however, will necessitate greater integration between federal and nonfederal activities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPractical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance
Subtitle of host publicationLinking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319724720
ISBN (Print)9783319724706
StatePublished - Apr 18 2018


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Biodiversity governance
  • Biological opinion
  • Collaboration
  • Empathy
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Hydrologic modeling
  • Integrated natural resource management
  • Klamath Basin
  • Participatory capacity
  • Resilience
  • Section 7 consultation
  • Trust


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