Migratory Bird Program
Conserving the Nature of America

Federal and State Roles

Migratory birds in North America are an international resource, with numerous species breeding throughout the United States and Canada. In the fall of each year, these birds migrate south to winter in the USA, Mexico, and Central and South America. Because of the migratory nature of these species and their interstate and international movements, ultimate management authority lies with the federal governments in the respective countries. Migratory bird treaties with other countries govern the management of migratory birds in the USA, distinguishing those species that can be hunted from those that can't and establishing outside limits on hunting-season dates and season lengths.

Migratory game bird management in the United States is a cooperative effort of state and federal governments. For waterfowl management, for example, the USA and Canada are divided into four Flyways; the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific. In the USA, the Flyway Councils, consisting of representatives from state and provincial game-management agencies, recommend regulations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), not only for waterfowl but also for most migratory shore and upland game birds. The Councils are advised by Flyway technical committees consisting of state and provincial biologists. These technical committees evaluate species and population status, harvest, and hunter-participation data during the development of the Council regulations recommendations. The Service's Office of Migratory Bird Management(MBMO), with advice from biologists in the Service's Regional Offices, evaluates the Council recommendations, considering species status and biology, cumulative effects of regulations, and existing regulatory policy, and makes recommendations to the Service's Regulations Committee, which consists of members of the Service Directorate. The Service Regulations Committee considers both the Council and MBMO recommendations, then forwards its recommendations for annual regulations to the Service Director. Once regulatory proposals are approved, they are published in the Federal Register for public comment. After the comment period, final regulations are developed, which are then signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

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Last updated: April 11, 2012