The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Federal government to designate "critical habitat" for any species it lists under the ESA. Critical habitat is defined as:
- Specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservation, and those features may require special management considerations or protection; and
- Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.
Species & Critical Habitats
(All links below are PDF files.)
NOTE: The critical habitat maps provided here are for illustrative purposes only. Textual descriptions of critical habitats, which are provided in the associated Federal Register notices (see below), are the definitive sources for determining critical habitat boundaries.
|Beluga Whale||2011||76 FR 20180|
|Hawaiian Monk Seal||1988,
|53 FR 18988,
51 FR 16047
|Proposed Hawaiian Monk Seal||2011||76 FR 32026|
|Killer Whale (Southern Resident)||2006||71 FR 69054|
|North Pacific Right Whale||2008,
|73 FR 19000,
71 FR 38277
|North Atlantic Right Whale||1994||59 FR 28805|
|Steller Sea Lion||1993||58 FR 45269|
|Green Turtle||1998||63 FR 46693|
|Hawksbill Turtle||1998||63 FR 46693|
|Leatherback Turtle (U.S. Virgin Islands)||1979||44 FR 17710|
|Leatherback Turtle (U.S. West Coast)
» Biological Report
» Economic Report
|2012||77 FR 4170|
*Petition accepted to revise leatherback sea turtle critical habitat off the coast of Puerto Rico (76 FR 25660, May 5, 2011)
Marine and Anadromous Fishes
|Atlantic Salmon||2009||74 FR 29300|
|2005||70 FR 52630|
|64 FR 24049
73 FR 7816
|Proposed Coho Salmon (Lower Columbia River)||2013||78 FR 2725|
|2009||74 FR 52300|
|Gulf Sturgeon||2003||68 FR 13370|
|2011||76 FR 65324|
|Smalltooth Sawfish||2009||74 FR 45353|
|2005||70 FR 52630|
|Proposed Steelhead (Puget Sound)||2013||78 FR 2725|
**Under the ESA, "species" includes subspecies, or, for vertebrates only, "distinct population segments (DPSs)". Pacific salmon are listed as "evolutionarily significant units (ESUs)", which are essentially equivalent to DPSs for the purpose of the ESA.
Marine Plants & Invertebrates
|Black Abalone||2011||76 FR 66806|
|Elkhorn Coral||2008||73 FR 72210|
|Staghorn Coral||2008||73 FR 72210|
|Johnson's seagrass||2000||65 FR 17786|
Critical Habitat Designations
Critical habitat designations must be based on the best scientific information available, in an open public process, within specific timeframes.
A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge; it applies only when Federal funding, permits, or projects are involved. Under Section 7 of the ESA, all Federal agencies must ensure that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species, or destroy or adversely modify its designated critical habitat.
Critical habitat requirements do not apply to citizens engaged in activities on private land that do not involve a Federal agency.
Before designating critical habitat, careful consideration must be given to the economic impacts, impacts on national security, and other relevant impacts. The Secretary of Commerce may exclude an area from critical habitat if the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designation, unless excluding the area will result in the extinction of the species concerned.
- Code of Federal Regulations: 50 CFR 226 - Designated Critical Habitat [pdf]
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Data on Critical Habitat
Updated: March 11, 2013