Origins of Federal Wildlife Laws and Enforcement
|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
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.|
Last updated: May 21, 2009