Published since 1946
FWS Rescinds Critical Habitat Regulations
In continuation of actions taken last month to change definitions of habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it was rescinding regulations issued in 2020 that changed the process for excluding areas from critical habitat designations. The final rule restores the role of the FWS as the agency responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to determine when and how to exclude areas from designations under section 4(b)(2) of the ESA. Critical habitats identify the areas and habitat features that are essential to the conservation of listed species, however areas may be excluded from designations after considering economics, national security, and other factors including conservation actions already underway.
“The Service is the federal government’s lead agency on endangered species, responsible for conserving the nature of America for future generations,” said FWS Director Martha Williams. “This rule will allow our biologists to ensure critical habitat designations contribute to the conservation of ESA-listed species. Today’s action helps the Service implement the ESA in ways that support sound science and citizen participation.”
The FWS will resume using an approach outlined in a 2016 policy (which is still being used by NOAA Fisheries) that considers the economic impacts of a proposed critical habitat designation and publishes the economic analysis concurrent with the proposed designation. The agency also always considers exclusion of areas of national security as well as those that are covered by a permitted voluntary conservation plan.