Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region

How is Critical Habitat is Designated

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 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 several species that are listed within the Klamath Basin.  They include:

Plants: Invertebrates: Fish: Birds:

How does the Yreka FWO implement Critical Habitat designations?

The ESA provides protection to critical habitat under Section 7 of the act by requiring Federal agencies to consult with the FWS on activities they fund, authorize, or carry out, to ensure their actions do not adversely modify such habitat to the point that it no longer aids in the conservation of the intended species.

During the Consultation process, the Yreka FWO works with other Federal Agencies to design projects so as to minimize effects on critical habitat.  For example, the Streamlined Consultation process, used between Yreka FWO and the Klamath National Forest, typically begins with field evaluation to determine if critical habitat elements are present in a project area.  If they are present, we then determine how those critical habitat elements might be affected by the proposed project.  If necessary, the Yreka FWO staff makes recommendations to the Klamath National Forest regarding project design to ensure that effects to the critical habitat elements are minimized and the conservation role of the designated critical habitat is not compromised.