Endangered Species
Ecological Services

Listing and Critical Habitat | Critical Habitat

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered Florida manatee. The refuge preserves the warm water spring havens, which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter. Credit: David Hinkel.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered Florida manatee. The refuge preserves the warm water spring havens, which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter.

Photo credit: David Hinkel

When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) must consider whether there are areas of habitat believed to be essential to the species' conservation. Those areas may be proposed for designation as critical habitat.

If critical habitat is designated, does that mean no further land development can occur in that area?
No. A critical habitat designation does not necessarily restrict further development. A designation requires Federal agencies to ensure that actions they plan to undertake, fund, or authorize do not destroy or adversely modify that habitat.

Does a critical habitat designation affect all activities that occur within the designated area?
No. Only activities that involve a federal permit, license, or funding, and that may affect the area of critical habitat will be affected. If this is the case, the Service will work with the federal agency and, where appropriate, private or other landowners to amend their project to allow it to proceed without adversely modifying the critical habitat. Thus, most federal projects are likely to go forward, but some could be modified to minimize harm to critical habitat.

Find answers to other frequently asked questions regarding critical habitats.

View or download the final policy [356KB] for critical habitat exclusions.

Learn about proposed regulation revisions related to critical habitat.

Learn more about procedures and criteria [266KB] used for designating critical habitat.

See how many species have been designated with critical habitats.

Access an online mapping application that displays designated spatial information for selected critical habitats.

View the status of critical habitat actions (historical logs of the actions that propose, finalize, withdraw or change critical habitat designations for a species) within a specified date range.

Last updated: July 19, 2018