Critical habitat is a term defined and used in the Endangered Species Act. It is a specific geographic area(s) that contains features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management and protection.
Critical habitat may include an area that is not currently occupied by the species but that will be needed for its recovery. An area is designated as "critical habitat" after we publish a proposed Federal regulation in the Federal Register and then we receive and consider public comments on the proposal.
The final boundaries of the critical habitat area are also published in the Federal Register.