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.

The Background And History Of The Fish And Wildlife Service

1950 FWS patrol vehiclesThe Background And History of the Fish and Wildlife Service ~in region~ originated in 1871 as the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries, more commonly referred to as the United States Fish Commission, created by the United States Congress with the purpose of studying and recommending solutions to a noted decline in the stocks of food fish. Spencer Fullerton Baird was appointed its first commissioner. In 1903, the Fish Commission was reorganized as the United States Bureau of Fisheries.

In 1885–1886, the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy was established within the United States Department of Agriculture. In 1896 it became the Division of Biological Survey. Its early work focused Plum Islandon the effect of birds in controlling agricultural pests and mapping the geographical distribution of plants and animals in the United States. Clinton Hart Merriam headed the Bureau for 25 years and became a national figure for improving the scientific understanding of birds and mammals in the United States. Jay Norwood Darling was appointed Chief of the new Bureau of Biological Survey in 1934; the same year Congress passed the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA), one of the oldest federal environmental review statutes.  Under Darling’s guidance, the Bureau began an ongoing legacy of protecting vital natural habitat throughout the country. The USFWS was finally created in 1940 when the Bureaus of Fisheries and Biological Survey were combined after being moved to the Department of the Interior.

Governing and Management of National Monuments

History of Wildlife ManagementThe Service governs six National Monuments; Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington state; Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a huge maritime area in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (jointly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Hawaii); World War Two Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Alaska, Hawaii and California, jointly managed with The National Park Service; Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the largest marine protected area in the world (in consultation with NOAA; the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa (with NOAA and the American Samoan Government)), and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument including undersea mud volcanoes, vents, chemosynthetic organisms, and much of the deepest points on Earth (in coordination of management with NOAA and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

Tribal relations

Pursuant to the eagle feather law, Title 50, Part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 22), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the National Eagle Repository and the permit system for Native American religious use of eagle feathers ~around region~.  However, these exceptions often only apply to Native Americans that are registered with the federal government and are enrolled with a federally recognized tribe. Therefore, many indigenous people that wish to practice their religion continue to face persecution. This has become a modern source of conflict between many tribes and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Barrack ObamaIn the late 1990s and early 2000s, the USFWS began to incorporate the research of tribal scientists into conservation decisions.  This came on the heels of Native American TEK, or traditional ecological knowledge, gaining acceptance in the scientific community as a reasonable and respectable way to gain knowledge of managing the natural world.  Additionally, other natural resource agencies within the United States government, such as the USDA, have taken steps to be more inclusive of tribes, native people, and tribal rights.  This has marked a transition to a relationship of more cooperation rather than the tension between tribes and government agencies seen historically. Today, these agencies work closely with tribal governments to ensure the best conservation decisions are made and that tribes retain their sovereignty.

The vast majority of fish and wildlife habitat is on non-federal lands. Therefore, the FWS works closely with private groups, such as The Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Partners in Flight, Sport Fishing and The Boating Partnership Council, to assist voluntary habitat conservation and restoration.

The FWS employs approximately 9,000 people and is organized into a central administrative office (in Arlington, VA), eight regional offices, and nearly 700 field offices distributed throughout the United States.