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Choosing the Right CESA Permit

Take Prohibition of CESA

The take prohibition of CESA specifically states that no person shall import into this state, export out of this state, or take, possess, purchase, or sell within this state, any species, or any part or product thereof, that the commission determines to be an endangered species or a threatened species, or attempt any of those acts (Fish & G. Code, § 2080; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 783.1). In this context, the term “take” is defined by Fish and Game Code section 86 as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill. Penalties for violating section 2080 range from $25,000 to $50,000 for each violation, one-year imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment (Fish & G. Code, § 12008.1). However, CESA contains several exceptions to the take prohibition and CDFW may permit the take of candidate, threatened, or endangered species for individuals or businesses carrying out otherwise lawful activities.

Types of CESA Permits

The following are examples of common situations and associated permits. It is not an exhaustive list, nor does it represent all situations. To discuss your specific proposed project and what permits may be required, contact the CDFW Regional Office in the location of the proposed project.

Consistency Determination

  • Affected species is listed under the federal Endangered Species Act AND CESA.
  • Applicant has obtained or will obtain a Habitat Conservation Plan and its associated federal incidental take permit (16 U.S.C § 1539) or Biological Opinion and its associated incidental take statement (16 U.S.C. § 1536).
  • Applicant believes the federal permit/statement is consistent with CESA.
  • Take will be incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity, such as a construction, utility, transportation, or other infrastructure-related project.

Scientific, Educational, or Management Permit and Memorandum of Understanding

  • Applicant is an individual, public agency, university, zoological garden, or scientific or educational institution.
  • Proposed project will involve importation, exportation, take, or possession of endangered, threatened, or candidate species for scientific, educational, or management purposes. 

Incidental Take Permit

  • Take will be incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity.
  • Most commonly issued for construction, utility, transportation, and other infrastructure-related projects. 
  • Permittees will implement species-specific minimization and avoidance measures, and fully mitigate the impacts of the project.

Safe Harbor Agreement

  • Private landowner whose voluntary actions will contribute to the recovery of a CESA-listed species. 
  • In exchange for actions that contribute to the recovery of listed species, participating property owners receive formal assurances or a “safe harbor” from violating the take prohibition.

Not Sure if CESA-Listed Species Occur on the Project Site?

If you are uncertain if your project will impact CESA-listed species, CDFW encourages you to use one of our link opens in new windowmapping services then consult your nearest CDFW Regional Office.  

What Species Are Listed Under The Federal Endangered Species Act And The California Endangered Species Act?

link opens in new windowState and/or Federally Listed Animal Species (PDF)
link opens in new windowState and/or Federally Listed Plant Species (PDF)



Habitat Conservation Planning Branch
1416 Ninth Street, 12th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-4875