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Frequently asked questions

1. Who has to consult under the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act and the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act?

State agencies or units of local government must consult the Department about proposed actions that they will authorize, fund or perform. Private parties do not have to consult, but they are liable for prohibited taking of state-listed plants or animals or for adversely modifying a Nature Preserve or a Land and Water Reserve. Home rule governments may delegate this responsibility, through duly enacted ordinances, to the parties seeking authorization or funding of the action.

2. Who MAY consult?

Developers, consultants, planners, and others frequently consult regarding tentative projects to determine the presence or absence of natural resource issues. The Department encourages such consultation as most effective, most economical, and least disruptive.

3. What actions require consultation?

Any action that will change existing environmental conditions, i.e. anything that disturbs the land, water, or air. Examples include:

  • alteration, removal, excavation or plowing of non-farmed, non-cultivated areas
  • discharge of pollutants or application of chemicals into the air, water, or land
  • dredging any naturally occurring materials
  • re-zoning from a non-urban classification to an urban classification (e.g. from agricultural to residential) or a change from one urban classification to another on land not used in its entirety for the original classification
  • subdivision and other development plats
  • infrastructure alterations (utilities, roads, sewers)
  • land management
  • altering existing topography
  • annexations
  • parks, stream, or lake modifications
  • creating or increasing permanent barriers to wildlife movement, such as dam construction

4. What actions are exempt from consultation?

Unless it is evident that they could directly or indirectly affect an endangered or threatened species or a Natural Area, the following actions are exempt from consultation:

  • mowing within maintained highway rights-of-way
  • routine resurfacing and application of oil and gravel to existing roads
  • maintenance or repair of existing structures
  • actions under a Department-approved management plan undertaken to maintain or improve natural ecosystem conditions or to re-establish pre-settlement vegetation conditions (such as prescribed burns, spot application of herbicides or brush clearing)
  • maintenance of existing lawns, yards, and ornamental plantings
  • routine cultivation of agricultural lands
  • zoning change for land currently zoned, developed, and used in its entirety for commercial, industrial, or residential purposes

5. How is consultation enforced?

The consultation requirement may be enforced through a writ of mandamus, which may be sought by any "affected" person from the circuit court with jurisdiction.

6. What are the consequences of NOT consulting?

  • destruction of irreplaceable natural resources
  • negative public relations and potential civil litigation
  • injunctive action, civil penalties, seizure of property, or criminal prosecution

7. How to consult?

Initiate consultation using DNR's EcoCAT online application.

  • Consultation should be initiated as early as possible in the planning process and should be completed before any irrevocable commitments are made.
  • EcoCAT requires applicants to identify the unit of state or local government that is authorizing, funding or performing the proposed action, describe the action, and use an online MapTool to draw the location map for the proposed action.
  • EcoCAT will generate a report that tells you whether a protected resource may be in the vicinity of the proposed action. If no protected resource is present, consultation will be terminated by EcoCAT. The applicant will be able to print and/or save the EcoCAT report as documentary proof the consultation process has been completed.
  • If EcoCAT does not terminate consultation, IDNR staff will review the project. If it is determined that no protected resource is likely to be adversely affected, staff will send a letter clarifying that consultation is terminated. If adverse effects are possible, staff will request additional information from the applicant.
  • While IDNR should respond to consultation requests within 30 days, a late response does not terminate the process.

8. How does IDNR evaluate proposed actions that are in the vicinity of protected resources?

Based on the nature of the proposed action and the nature of the protected resource, staff will assess the character of the potential adverse impacts and whether an adverse impact is likely. For listed species, the assessment is based on the life requirements of the species. The assessment for Natural Areas and Nature Preserves is much broader, based on potential impacts to natural communities and the unique features of the Site or Preserve.

9. How can I make consultation effective?

  • Plan proactively.
  • Coordinate planning and development with other municipalities and governments.
  • Know the natural resource issues in your area.
  • Modernize zoning and subdivision ordinances to enable your government to impose natural resource protection measures.
  • Incorporate resource protection measures into formal and enforceable agreements, permits, contracts, etc.
  • Enforce ordinances, regulations, permit terms, and contract provisions.
  • Educate officials, developers, consultants, and the general public about natural resources and laws protecting them.

10. What consultation does NOT do?

  • It does not result in permits of any kind. Permits must be obtained from the respective regulatory agency.
  • It does not satisfy the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Protection Act of 1972 and implementing regulations.
  • It cannot prohibit or prevent a proposed action.
  • It does not preempt, override, reduce or interfere with the powers of local governments or State agencies.
  • It does not address impacts to natural resources which do not enjoy protected status, except to the extent they entail cumulative indirect adverse effects to protected resources.
  • It cannot protect or conserve listed species, Natural Areas, or Nature Preserves without the active participation and cooperation of agency and local officials.