WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), applauded the U.S. Department of the Interior’s proposed rule defining “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“The Trump administration is making the Endangered Species Act work better for people and wildlife,” said Barrasso. “By providing clearly defined terms, efforts to protect species can be more focused and more effective. This proposal will provide commonsense protections for endangered species without expanding beyond the habitat they actually depend on.”
On July 31, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed to define “habitat”, in the context of critical habitat under the ESA, as “the physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.”
This builds upon a previously finalized rule promulgated by USFWS and NMFS, effective September 26, 2019, that limited critical habitat to unoccupied areas with physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and prevented the services from designating unoccupied habitat as critical habitat unless the occupied habitat was inadequate to conserve the species. Currently under ESA, “critical habitat” may include occupied habitat and unoccupied habitat that is essential for the conservation of a listed species.