The Legal Effect Of Critical Habitat Designation

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Critical habitat, that deemed “essential to the survival of a species”, presents an important habitat designation with regard to species protection as it requires the consideration of specific geographic areas inhabited by the species, as well as those areas currently unoccupied by the given species, but which may provide conservation benefit nonetheless.[1] The legal effect of critical habitat designation are described by sections 4 and 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) respectively, they; authorize the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate critical habitat - concurrent to the listing of a species as “threatened” or “endangered”[2] – and establish an FWS/ NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) consultation process for federal agencies intended to “ensure actions that they carry out, fund, or authorize do not ‘jeopardize’ the continued existence of listed species or ‘adversely modify’ their critical habitat.”[3] The key issues surrounding such designation vary considerably, ranging from; difficulties in habitat selection associated with the displacement of wildlife (i.e. due to global climate change), and ambiguity pertaining to the implementation of designations. FWS have voiced concern for the efficacy of critical habitat designations, stating that they act to “distract from higher-priority work”, while insignificantly affecting the protection of a species – alternatively, the courts have responded in favor of the practice, ruling that critical
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