50 CFR 424.12 - Criteria for designating critical habitat.

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§ 424.12 Criteria for designating critical habitat.

(a) To the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we will propose and finalize critical habitat designations concurrent with issuing proposed and final listing rules, respectively. If designation of critical habitat is not prudent or if critical habitat is not determinable, the Secretary will state the reasons for not designating critical habitat in the publication of proposed and final rules listing a species. The Secretary will make a final designation of critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific data available, after taking into consideration the probable economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of making such a designation in accordance with § 424.19.

(1) A designation of critical habitat is not prudent when any of the following situations exist:

(i) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat to the species; or

(ii) Such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. In determining whether a designation would not be beneficial, the factors the Services may consider include but are not limited to: Whether the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or whether any areas meet the definition of “critical habitat.”

(2) Designation of critical habitat is not determinable when one or both of the following situations exist:

(i) Data sufficient to perform required analyses are lacking; or

(ii) The biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well known to identify any area that meets the definition of “critical habitat.”

(b) Where designation of critical habitat is prudent and determinable, the Secretary will identify specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and any specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species to be considered for designation as critical habitat.

(1) The Secretary will identify, at a scale determined by the Secretary to be appropriate, specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species for consideration as critical habitat. The Secretary will:

(i) Identify the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing.

(ii) Identify physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species at an appropriate level of specificity using the best available scientific data. This analysis will vary between species and may include consideration of the appropriate quality, quantity, and spatial and temporal arrangements of such features in the context of the life history, status, and conservation needs of the species.

(iii) Determine the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species that contain the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species.

(iv) Determine which of these features may require special management considerations or protection.

(2) The Secretary will identify, at a scale determined by the Secretary to be appropriate, specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are essential for its conservation, considering the life history, status, and conservation needs of the species based on the best available scientific data.

(c) Each critical habitat area will be shown on a map, with more-detailed information discussed in the preamble of the rulemaking documents published in the Federal Register and made available from the lead field office of the Service responsible for such designation. Textual information may be included for purposes of clarifying or refining the location and boundaries of each area or to explain the exclusion of sites (e.g., paved roads, buildings) within the mapped area. Each area will be referenced to the State(s), county(ies), or other local government units within which all or part of the critical habitat is located. Unless otherwise indicated within the critical habitat descriptions, the names of the State(s) and county(ies) are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute the boundaries of the area. Ephemeral reference points (e.g., trees, sand bars) shall not be used in any textual description used to clarify or refine the boundaries of critical habitat.

(d) When several habitats, each satisfying the requirements for designation as critical habitat, are located in proximity to one another, the Secretary may designate an inclusive area as critical habitat.

(e) The Secretary may designate critical habitat for those species listed as threatened or endangered but for which no critical habitat has been previously designated. For species listed prior to November 10, 1978, the designation of critical habitat is at the discretion of the Secretary.

(f) The Secretary may revise existing designations of critical habitat according to procedures in this section as new data become available.

(g) The Secretary will not designate critical habitat within foreign countries or in other areas outside of the jurisdiction of the United States.

(h) The Secretary will not designate as critical habitat land or other geographic areas owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its use, that are subject to a compliant or operational integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a) if the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a conservation benefit to the species for which critical habitat is being designated. In determining whether such a benefit is provided, the Secretary will consider:

(1) The extent of the area and features present;

(2) The type and frequency of use of the area by the species;

(3) The relevant elements of the INRMP in terms of management objectives, activities covered, and best management practices, and the certainty that the relevant elements will be implemented; and

(4) The degree to which the relevant elements of the INRMP will protect the habitat from the types of effects that would be addressed through a destruction-or-adverse-modification analysis.

[49 FR 38908, Oct. 1, 1984, as amended at 77 FR 25622, May 1, 2012; 81 FR 7439, Feb. 11, 2016]