Under the Endangered Species Act, habitat that is important to the survival and recovery of an endangered or threatened species can be protected as critical habitat or recovery habitat.
Both are identified in species recovery planning and can include habitat a species occupies and in which it winters, breeds and forages.
Critical habitat is essential to the survival of a species and can include:
Critical habitat must include a sufficient amount of habitat to support enough members of a species to ensure the species survives. For example, if the definition of critical habitat falls into category 2 or 3, the remaining suitable habitat available, or a portion of it, can be defined as recovery habitat: habitat that is not critical to the survival of the species but will help the species recover to a self-sustaining level.
Once critical and/or recovery habitat is identified, the habitat can be protected through one of a wide variety of protection mechanisms such as establishment of ecological or wilderness reserves, wildlife reserves, or provincial parks.