Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office
Southeast Region

 

Critical Habitat

gulf sturgeon. Credit USFWS

Range map with designated critical habitat for threatened gulf sturgeon credit: USFWS

What Is Critical Habitat?  

Critical Habitat is a term from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Section 3 of the ESA defines Critical Habitat for a threatened or endangered species, in part, as: “the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of this Act, on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection; and specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of this Act, upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species”

In accordance with section 3(5)(A) (i) of the Act and the regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(b), in determining what areas are critical habitat, the Secretary shall consider those physical and biological features that are essential to the conservation of a given species and that may require special management considerations or protection. Such requirements include, but are not limited to the following:

(1) Space for individual and population growth, and for normal behavior;
(2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements;
(3) Cover or shelter;
(4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, rearing of offspring, germination, or seed dispersal; and generally;
(5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historic geographical and ecological distributions for a species.  

How Critical Habitat is Designated


When it is prudent to do so, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designates critical habitat for listed species.  The designation of critical habitat will not, in itself, lead to recovery, but is one of several measures available to contribute to a species’ conservation.  In designating critical habitat, the FWS uses the best scientific data available to determine areas occupied at the time of listing that contain the features essential to the conservation of the listed species.  A critical habitat proposal includes the background on how the proposal was developed; a description of the important biological and physical elements that are critical habitat; an analysis of the economic impacts of the designation; and a precise description of where the proposed critical habitat units are located.  When the critical habitat proposal is drafted, it is made available for public review and comment through publication in the Federal Register.  The FWS reviews and considers comments on the proposal, then publishes the final boundary in the Federal Register.  The process can be lengthy, taking a year or more to make a designation final.   

You can read more about Critical Habitat.

Critical Habitat has been designated for a few listed species in Mississippi.  They include:

          • Mississippi Gopher Frog (Rana capito sevosa)
            • and some mussels (Epioblasma brevidens, Lampsilis perovalis, Medionidus acutissimus, Pleurobema perovatum, Pleurobema decisum )
            gulf sturgeon. Credit USFWS

            USFWS biologist, holds a young Gulf sturgeon in his hands. Credit: Jake Osborne, USFWS

             

   
   
             
           
             
Last Updated: April 18, 2013
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