Endangered Species
Ecological Services
Homepage banner


 Improving ESA Home



Related Links



Connect With Us

 facbook icon   twitter icon   flickr icon 
podcast icon   youtube icon   RSS icon


Significant Portion of Its Range

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service (Services) are jointly proposing a policy to improve and clarify implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by providing a formalinterpretation of the phrase "significant portion of its range" that appears in the ESA definitions of "endangered species" and "threatened species." This policy will improve ESA implementation by providing a consistent and uniform standard for interpretation of the phrase "significant portion of its range" by the Services in making decisions to list species in need of federal protection and delist species no longer in need of federal protection.

Karner blue butterfly.

This policy would clarify that the Services could list a species if it is endangered or threatened in a "significant portion of its range," even if that species is not endangered or threatened throughout all its range. Under the proposed policy, a portion of the range of any given species would be defined as "significant" if its contribution to the viability of the species is so important that, without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction. While the Services expect this circumstance to arise infrequently, this policy interpretation will allow ESA protections to help species in trouble before large-scale decline occurs throughout the species' entire range.

Quote from Service Director Dan Ashes

READ the Proposed Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase "Significant Portion of Its Range"

View the Extension of Comment Period Bulletin
View the Extension of Comment Period Federal Register Notice
View the News Release
View the Federal Register notice
View Frequently Asked Questions

Before finalizing the draft policy, the Services are seeking public comments on the proposal. A 30-day extension of the public comment period has been announced. The public comment period on the draft policy will now close on March 8, 2012.

You may submit written comments and information through:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2011-0031]; or

  • U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-ES-2011-0031]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

The extension notice will publish in the Federal Register on February 07, 2012. Comments must be received on or before March 08, 2012. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.


Until the policy is final, the Services have an obligation to meet statutory timeframes and make determinations in response to petitions to list, reclassify, and delist species. During this interim period, the Services will consider the interpretations and principles in this proposed policy as nonbinding guidance in making individual listing determinations. As nonbinding guidance, the Services will apply these interpretations and principles only as the circumstances warrant, and the agencies will independently explain and justify any decision made in this interim period in light of the circumstances of the species under consideration. In preparing a final policy, the Services will consider all comments and information received during the comment period on this proposed policy, as well as experience gained during the interim period.

Last updated: August 29, 2013