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Timing of Economic Analysis for Critical Habitat Designations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service (the Services), the two federal agencies responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA), published a final rule today that simplifies and clarifies the process governing critical habitat designations for endangered and threatened species.

The Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) was the first amphibian granted Endangered Species Act protection. Critical habitat was designated in Bastrop and Burleson counties in Texas in 1978. Still, these areas support the largest known Houston toad populations.

This revised regulation will require that the draft economic analysis for proposed designations of critical habitat be made available for public review and comment concurrent with the publication of the proposed critical habitat designation.   The revised regulation also codifies the Services' standard practice, in most cases, of using an "incremental approach" for assessing the probable impacts of proposed critical habitat designations and the weighing the benefits of including or excluding particular areas from the designations. By this method, the impacts of adding or excluding areas of critical habitat are analyzed separate from all other protections for that species under the ESA.

This regulatory change was first outlined in a Presidential Memorandum seeking to improve transparency and public comment by providing the public access to both the scientific analysis and the draft economic analysis of a proposed critical habitat designation at the same time.  It is also consistent with Executive Order 13563, which calls for a retrospective analysis of existing rules to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.

This rule will go into effect on October 30, 2013.

Final Rule
View the Final Rule News Release
View the Final Rule Federal Register notice
View the Final Rule Frequently Asked Questions


Last updated: October 2, 2014