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.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many "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.

Critical Habitat Designations in California's Central Coast Region

Some examples of CH designations include:

  • Fish
    • California Central Coast Steelhead (O. mykiss) Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

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