Office of Law Enforcement
Protecting Wildlife and Plant Resources
Law Enforcement History: 1900 - 1950


The Lacey Act took effect as the first federal law protecting game; it prohibited the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife, and the importation of injurious species. Enforcement of this Act became the responsibility of the Division of Biological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The Division of Biological Survey became the Bureau of Biological Survey and remained in the Department of Agriculture.


The Federal Migratory Bird Law (Weeks-McLean Law) became effective, and the first migratory bird hunting regulations were adopted on October 1.


The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain (acting for Canada), recognizing migratory birds as an international resource.


The Migratory Bird Treaty Act became law, making it unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird. The Act's prohibitions applied to the feathers, parts, nests, and eggs of these birds.


In the case of Missouri vs. Holland, 252 U. S. 416, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act "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.


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.


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.


The Lacey Act was expanded to prohibit foreign commerce in illegally taken wildlife.


The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with Mexico.


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.


The Bald Eagle Protection Act became law, prohibiting a variety of activities involving the species, including import, export, take, sale, 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 continued to reside in the Division of Game Management.

Historical Developement of Wildlife Law Enforcement in the United States Continued:

1951 - 1975
1976 - Present

Back to Historical Background page.

Last updated: February 14, 2013