New rule governs designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act

In a budget-saving move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service issued a final rule revising the method by which the critical habitat of an endangered or threatened species is designated in the Federal Register. Previously, the Federal Register‘s designation of critical habitat would include both a map depicting the critical habitat and a textual description of the habitat’s boundaries. Under the new rule, textual descriptions will no longer be required, and the maps published in the Federal Register will be the official delineation of the critical habitat.

Although some industry groups raised concerns about the clarity and usability of the maps published in the Federal Register, both Services intend to continue providing additional information to the public in order to clarify any ambiguities concerning habitat boundaries. For example, the coordinates from which the maps are generated will be included in the administrative record and will be maintained at the field office responsible for the designation. Also, the Services will continue to provide interactive maps and additional descriptions of habitat boundaries on the website of the Service promulgating the designation.

Developers and industry groups who are unclear about the boundaries set forth by the maps in the Federal Register should take advantage of these and other resources described on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.