Origins of Federal Wildlife Laws and Enforcement

Chronology

Year Event
1900 The Lacey Act took effect as the first Federal law protecting game, prohibiting the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife, as well as the importation of injurious species. Enforcement of this Act became the responsibility of the Division of Biological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
1905 The Division of Biological Survey became the Bureau of Biological Survey and remained in the Department of Agriculture.
1913 The Federal Migratory Bird Law (Weeks-McLean Law) became effective and the first migratory bird hunting regulations were adopted on October 1.
1916 The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain   (for Canada), recognizing migratory birds as an international resource.
1918 The Migratory Bird Treaty Act became law, making it unlawful to   take, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, including feathers, parts, nests, or eggs.
1920 In the case of Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, the United States Supreme Court sustained the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as constitutional "establishing beyond question the supremacy of the Federal treaty-making power as a source of authority for Federal wildlife regulation." Citing the State ownership doctrine, Missouri had filed suit to prevent a U.S. Game Warden from enforcing the Act within the State.
1926 The Black Bass Act became law, making it illegal to transport in interstate commerce black bass taken, purchased, or sold in violation of State law.
1934 The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act became law, requiring all waterfowl hunters aged 16 and over to possess a "Duck Stamp."

A Division of Game Management was created in the Bureau of Biological Survey, Department of Agriculture, with responsibility for wildlife law enforcement.
1935 The Lacey Act was expanded to prohibit foreign commerce in illegally taken wildlife.
1936 The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with Mexico.
1939 The Bureau of Biological Survey, Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Commerce, were transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
1940 The Bald Eagle Protection Act became law, prohibiting a variety of activities involving the species, including import, export, take, sell, purchase, or barter.

The Bureau of Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries were combined to form the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. All law enforcement responsibilities were continued in the Division of Game Management.
1951 Fish and Wildlife Service Director Albert Day announced an expanded program of enforcement and management for the protection of migratory waterfowl, by transferring the personnel and funds of the Section of Waterfowl Management Investigations to the Branch of Game Management.
1956 The Fish and Wildlife Service was reorganized into the United States Fish and Wildlife Service consisting of a Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and a Bureau of Commercial-Fisheries. Wildlife law enforcement responsibilities were placed in the Branch of Management and Enforcement of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife.
1960 Following an investigation that revealed large-scale market-hunting of waterfowl, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended to include felony provisions for commercial activities - a $2,000 fine or two years imprisonment, or both.
1962 The Bald Eagle Protection Act became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and extended protection to golden eagles.
1970 The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 became effective prohibiting the importation into the United States of species "threatened with extinction worldwide," except as specifically allowed for zoological and scientific purposes, and propagation in captivity. The Act amended the Black Bass Act to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in fish taken in violation of foreign law, a provision that the Lacey Act had made in 1935 for wildlife. It also amended the Lacey Act so that its prohibition on interstate and foreign commerce applied not only to wild birds and mammals, but to reptiles, mollusks, amphibians, and crustaceans. This amendment was made in an effort aimed primarily at protecting the American alligator.

The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Commerce and became the National Marine Fisheries Service.
1971 The Airborne Hunting Act was signed into law, prohibiting the use of aircraft to hunt or harass wildlife.
1972 The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with Japan. The Migratory Bird Treaty with Mexico was amended to protect additional species, including birds of prey.

On September 28, 1972, the Division of Law Enforcement was created as successor to the Division of Management and Enforcement.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 became law, establishing a moratorium on the taking and importing of marine mammals, such as polar bears, sea otters, dugongs, walrus, manatees, whales, porpoise, seals, and sea lions.

The Eagle Protection Act was amended to increase penalties from $500 or six months imprisonment to $5,000 or one year, and to add the provision that a second conviction was punishable by a $10,000 fine or two years imprisonment, or both. In addition, the amendment allowed for informants to be rewarded one-half of the fine, not to exceed $2,500.

In September of 1972, the Division of Management and Enforcement was reorganized. Waterfowl management responsibilities were transferred to the Office of Migratory Bird Management and the Division of Management and Enforcement became the Division of Law Enforcement.
1973 The Endangered Species Act of 1973 became law, recognizing that "endangered species of wildlife and plants are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people." The Act expanded the scope of prohibited activities to include, not only importation, but exportation, taking, possession and other activities involving illegally taken species, and interstate or foreign commercial activities. It implemented protection for a new "threatened" category - species likely to become in danger of extinction.

On April 26, 1973, the former title of U.S. Game Management Agent was changed to Special Agent. This title change reflected an overall change in both the Washington Office and field operations. Law enforcement became the primary duty and responsibility of the Division.
1974 The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The field organization of the Division of Law Enforcement was restructured into 13 law enforcement districts and selection for the first Special Agents in Charge and Assistant Special Agents in Charge under this organization was announced on February 21, 1974.
1975 The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entered into force, regulating the importation, exportation, and re-exportation of species listed on its three appendices.

The first biological technician was hired in New York City to inspect wildlife shipments.
1976 The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Regional Offices of the Service hired Wildlife Inspectors at eight designated ports of entry to inspect wildlife. The eight ports were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Honolulu.
1979 The Supreme Court, in the case of Andrus v. Allard, upheld the prohibition on the sale of migratory bird feathers, regardless of whether they were obtained before Federal protection took effect.

The number of district offices was reduced to twelve when the Kansas City District Office was consolidated with the Denver, Colorado, District Office.
1981 The Black Bass and Lacey Acts were repealed and replaced by the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981. A comprehensive statute, the Lacey Act Amendments restored protection for migratory birds, removed from the Act in 1969, and initiated protection for plants. The Lacey Act Amendments increased penalties and included a felony punishment scheme to target commercial violators and international traffickers - by fines of up to $20,000 or five years imprisonment, or both.

Dallas-Fort Worth became a designated port for wildlife entering or leaving the United States.
1982 The Endangered Species Act was amended to include a plant-taking prohibition on Federal lands and a new exception allowing the inadvertent, non-commercial transshipment through the United States of endangered fish or wildlife.

The field organization of the Division of Law Enforcement was reduced from 12 to 7 districts, one for each region of the Service.
1983 The Law Enforcement Division's computer, the Law Enforcement Management Information System, LEMIS, became operational.
1985 Regionally, the Service received additional funds from Congress to hire 20 additional Wildlife Inspectors, expanding the force to 56.
1986 The Supreme Court, in the case of Dwight Dion, upheld the applicability of the Eagle Protection Act to Native Americans on Reservations. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended to require that felony violations be "knowingly" committed.
1988 The African Elephant Conservation Act became law, providing additional protection for the species, whose numbers had declined by 50 percent in the last decade. The Lacey Act was amended to include, among other things, felony provisions for commercial guiding violations.
1989 The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory was dedicated in Ashland, Oregon, providing expertise to assist in investigations, ranging from species identification to technical assistance such as surveillance and photography.
1990 Portland, Oregon, became the tenth designated port of entry for the importation and exportation of wildlife.

The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory was renamed the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in 1990 in memory of Clark R. Bavin, Chief, Division of Law Enforcement, from 1972 until his death in 1990.
1992 Baltimore, Maryland, became the eleventh designated port of entry for the importation and exportation of wildlife.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 was signed into law to address problems with the international trade in wild-caught birds, which contributes both to the decline of the species and to unacceptably high mortality rates.
1994 Boston, Massachusetts, was designated as the twelfth port of entry for importing and exporting fish and wildlife shipments.
1996 Atlanta, Georgia, was designated as the thirteenth port of entry for importing and exporting fish and wildlife shipments.