Critical Habitat designations in California's Central Coast Region

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This page provides the definition of Critical Habitat and lists designations of Critical Habitat in California's Central Coast Region.

This page was created as part of the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


Habitat loss is a leading cause of extinction, and has been addressed accordingly in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). One of the key objectives of the ESA is to identify and protect areas essential to the continued existence of a species, termed Critical Habitat. Critical Habitat includes geographic range of a species in question, but also extends to cover areas not currently occupied by the species, yet regarded as crucial to its recovery and survival. Critical Habitat receives protection from development and other human impacts.[1][2] Therefore, under ESA regulations it is not only illegal to harm or kill an individual of a listed species, it is also against the law to harm its Critical Habitat.[3] Critical Habitat is more of a regulatory concept than an ecological concept.

While the Critical Habitat law is applicable to everyone, "Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires that Federal agencies must ensure that any activities they authorize, fund or carry out are not likely to destroy or adversely modify the designated Critical Habitat of a listed species". [4]

"NOAA Fisheries designates critical habitat by determining the conservation value of particular areas and balancing the benefits of designation against its impacts (e.g., economic, national security). The proposed designation then goes through a period of public comment before the final rule is published and critical habitat is designated." [4]


Critical Habitat is:[5]

  • Specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservation, and those features may require special management considerations or protection
  • Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if we determine that the area itself is essential for conservation

Critical Habitat represents the habitat essential for a species’ recovery.[6] "Critical Habitat may include areas that are not currently occupied by a species, but that will be needed for its recovery. The designation of Critical Habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness reserve, preserve or other special conservation area". The designation does not mandate government or public access to private lands. A critical Habitat designation has no effect in situations that do not involve a federal agency, for example, a private landowner undertaking a project that involves no federal funding or permitting." [6]

Critical Habitat Designations in California's Central Coast Region

Some examples of CH designations include: [7]

  • Fish
    • California Central Coast Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) [8]
  • Invertebrates
    • Black Abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) [9] [10]
  • Birds
    • Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) [11]
  • Amphibians
    • California Red-Legged Frog (Rana draytonii)[12] [13]
  • Flowers
    • Rein Orchids (Piperia)
  • Mammals
    • Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys) [14]


Critical Habitat is a very specific thing and should be in capitals.


Special Status Species

Federal Register: Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat; Implementing Changes to the Regulations for Designating Critical Habitat


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named CitGuide
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Marrone
  3. Preemptive Habitat Destruction Under the Endangered Species Act
  4. 4.0 4.1 NOAA: Critical Habitat on the West Coast
  5. NOAA: Listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
  6. 6.0 6.1 NOAA FAQ
  7. Critical Habitat: Terrestrial Biological Resources
  8. California Central Coast Steelhead
  9. Black Abalone
  10. Critical Habitat Map of Black Abalone in California's Central Coast Region
  11. Western Snowy Plover
  12. California Red-Legged Frog
  13. Critical Habitat Maps of California Red-Legged Frog
  14. [1]


This page may contain students' work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.