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 final rule defining “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“The Trump administration’s habitat rule will make the Endangered Species Act work better for wildlife and people,” said Barrasso. “This final rule will more clearly define habitat and protect species in a more focused way. It will deliver commonsense protections for endangered species and the habitat they 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. The final rule defines it as, “for the purposes of designating critical habitat only, habitat is the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.”
This final rule 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.