Conserving the Nature of America
Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Reopen Public Comment Period on Process for Identifying Habitat Essential to Species Protected Under the ESA

November 7, 2012


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Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Reopen Public Comment Period on Process for Identifying Habitat Essential to Species Protected Under the ESA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) have reopened the public comment period on a joint proposal to simplify the process of identifying habitat essential to the survival and recovery of species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Due to public interest in this proposal and multiple requests for additional time, the agencies, which jointly administer the ESA, will accept comments and information from the public for an additional 90 days.

Comments and information submitted during the original 60-day comment period, which closed on October 23, 2012, will still be considered and do not need to be resubmitted.

The joint proposal would amend the ESA’s implementing regulations to require release of preliminary estimates of the economic impacts of any proposal to specify particular habitat areas at the same time as the habitat proposals themselves are released for public review and comment. The agencies’ past practice has been to complete draft economic analyses after the habitat proposal has been published for public review. Completion of the draft economic analyses at the time of proposal would allow the agencies to refine habitat proposals earlier in the process, and provide the public with additional information to help them understand and comment on those proposals.

This joint proposal is part of a broader effort by the agencies to engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated a review of its implementation of the ESA designed to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary procedural requirements, improve the clarity and consistency of regulations; engage the states, tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners as more effective conservation partners; encourage greater creativity in the implementation of the ESA; and reduce the frequency and intensity of conflicts as much as possible.

The goal of this effort is to accelerate recovery of threatened and endangered species across the nation, while making it easier for people to coexist with these species. The joint proposal was first outlined in a Presidential Memorandum seeking to improve transparency and better inform public comment by providing more information earlier in the habitat identification process. The proposed rule is also consistent with Executive Order 13563, which requires federal agencies to examine existing regulations and identify changes that will achieve objectives in a more efficient and effective manner.

If the proposed joint rule is finalized, the Services will implement the changes after it takes effect. Proposed critical habitat designations that are published prior to the effective date of any final regulation will continue to follow current practices. For more background about the proposal, visit online at:

The notice will publish in the Federal Register on November 8, 2012. Written comments and information concerning this proposal must be submitted by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2011-0073]; or

U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–R9–ES–2011–0073]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Comments must be received within 90 days, on or before February 6, 2013. The Services will post all comments on This generally means any personal information provided through the process will be posted.

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