The History And Purpose Of The US Fish And Wildlife Service

US FWS LogoThe United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is an agency of the federal government within the U.S. Department of the Interior which is dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."

The leader of the FWS is the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Daniel M. Ashe, of Maryland, who was confirmed on June 30, 2011, succeeding Sam Hamilton.

Among the responsibilities of the FWS are enforcing federal wildlife laws, protecting endangered species, managing migratory birds, restoring nationally significant fisheries, conserving and restoring wildlife habitat, such as wetlands, helping foreign governments with their international conservation efforts, and distributing money to states' fish and wildlife agencies through the Wildlife Sport Fish and Restoration program.  Units within the FWS include:

National Wildlife Refuge System
The mission of the Refuge System is "To administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate restoration of fish, wildlife,and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of the present and future generations of Americans" (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997). The Refuge System maintains the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of these natural resources and enables for associated public enjoyment of these areas where compatible with conservation efforts in over 560 National Wildlife Refuges and thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas covering over 150 million acres.

Division of Migratory Bird Management
Under the DMBM, wildlife conservation laws and regulations have been enacted to keep our bird populations healthy.  As part of its mandate to conserve birds and their habitats, they administer the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. These acts are at the foundation of the Migratory Bird Program.

Federal Duck Stamp
The Federal Duck Stamp, formally known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, is an adhesive stamp issued by the United States federal government that must be purchased prior to hunting for migratory waterfowl such as ducks and geese


National Fish Hatchery System
The National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS) was established by the U.S. Congress in 1871 through the creation of a U.S. Commissioner for Fish and Fisheries. This system of fish hatcheries is now administered by the Fisheries Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that manages over 70 National Fish Hatcheries and 65 Fishery Resource Offices.

Endangered Species Program
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.) is one of the few dozens of US environmental laws passed in the 1970s, and serves as the enacting legislation to carry out the provisions outlined in The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  Designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development un tempered by adequate concern and conservation", the ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court found that "the plain intent of Congress in enacting" the ESA "was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost."  The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Federal Register Of Listing Status And Abbreviations For Endangered Species

E = endangered  – any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range other than a species of the Class Insecta determined by the Secretary to constitute a pest.

T = threatened – any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range

C = candidate – a species under consideration for official listing.

E(S/A), T(S/A) = endangered or threatened due to similarity of appearance – a species not endangered or threatened, but so closely resembles in appearance a species which has been listed as endangered or threatened, that enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in attempting to differentiate between the listed and unlisted species.

XE, XN = experimental essential or non-essential population – any population (including eggs, propagules, or individuals) of an endangered species or a threatened species released outside the current range under authorization of the Secretary. Experimental, nonessential populations of endangered species are treated as threatened species on public land, for consultation purposes, and as species proposed for listing on private land.  The Endangered Species Act of 1973


United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement contributes to Service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species, and promote international wildlife conservation.

Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory
The primary mission of the laboratory is to identify the species or subspecies of pieces, parts or products of an animal to determine cause-of-death of an animal, to help wildlife officers determine if a violation of law has occurred and to identify and compare physical evidence in an attempt to link suspect, victim and crime scene.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
Department of the Interior launched the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) to better integrate science and management to address climate change and other landscape scale issues.