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Definition of Destruction or Adverse Modification

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) jointly proposed a rule revising the definition of "destruction or adverse modification" of designated critical habitat. The current regulatory definition has been invalidated by the courts, and since 2004, the Services have relied on internal agency memoranda to define this term. The Services proposed to replace the invalidated definition with one that is consistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), its legislative history and circuit court opinions.

The Pagosa skyrocket is a rare biennial plant, which only grows on shale outcrops in and around Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, Colorado.

The proposed revised definition of "destruction or adverse modification" focuses the Services' review of federal actions on how they would affect the designated critical habitat's ability to support recovery of species protected by the ESA. In this review, we looked at how the action may affect the quantity and quality of habitat features, the ability of that habitat to support the species throughout its life cycle, and the ability of the habitat to meet the species' recovery needs; in other words, how the "conservation value" of the critical habitat is being affected.

The proposed definition codifies our practices and provides a clear and consistent benchmark for determining "destruction or adverse modification."

The public comments period for this proposal closed October 6, 2014. We are currently working to respond to these comments and plan to finalize the definition in the summer of 2015.

Read the news release

View the proposed rule

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Last updated: May 15, 2015