Description: http://www.fws.gov/policy/fws_col.gif   029 FW 4, Division of Law Enforcement


FWM#:     223 (replaces FWM 103, 5/30/93)
Date:        October 25, 1995
Series:      Organization and History
Part 029:  History
Originating Office: Division of Policy and Directives Management



4.1 Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to detail the history of the Division of Law Enforcement.

4.2 Current Status. On September 28, 1972, the Division of Law Enforcement was created as successor to the Division of Management and Enforcement. The former title of U.S. Game Management Agent was changed to Special Agent on April 26, 1973. These title changes reflected an overall change in both Headquarters and field operation. Law enforcement and criminal investigation became the primary duty and responsibility of the Division.

4.3 History. Significant developments in the history of wildlife law enforcement at the federal level follow:

A. Early Law Enforcement in the Department of Agriculture.

(1) On May 25, 1900, the Lacey Act became effective as the first Federal law protecting game. Enforcement of this Act became the responsibility of the Division of Biological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(2) On March 3, 1905, the Division of Biological Survey became the Bureau of Biological Survey and remained in the Department of Agriculture.

(3) On March 4, 1913, the Federal Migratory Bird Law (Weeks-McLean Law) became effective and the first migratory bird hunting regulations were adopted on October 1, 1913. This law was attacked on grounds of constitutionality. The matter was dismissed by the Supreme Court in January 1919, on motion of the Attorney General since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act had made a decision unnecessary.

(4) On December 8, 1916, the Migratory Bird Treaty with Great Britain (for Canada) was proclaimed by the President.

(5) On July 3, 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act became law.

(6) On April 21, 1920, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was sustained as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416.

(7) On May 20, 1926, the Black Bass Act became law.

(8) On March 16, 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act became law.

(9) On July 1, 1934, a Division of Game Management was established in the Bureau of Biological Survey, Department of Agriculture, which became the entity within the Bureau responsible for law enforcement.

(10) On March 15, 1937, the Migratory Bird Treaty with Mexico was proclaimed by the President.

B. Initial Law Enforcement in the Department of the Interior.

(1) On July 1, 1939, the Bureau of Biological Survey, Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Commerce, were transferred to the Department of the Interior.

(2) On June 8, 1940, the Bald Eagle Protection Act became law.

(3) On June 30, 1940, 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.

(4) On November 15, 1951, Director Albert M. Day announced a greatly 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 from the Branch of Wildlife Research to the Branch of Game Management.

(5) On November 5, 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 enforcement responsibilities were placed in the Branch of Management and Enforcement of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife.

(6) On June 3, 1970, the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 became effective.

(7) On October 3, 1970, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Commerce and became the National Marine Fisheries Service.

(8) On November 18, 1971, the Airborne Hunting Act was enacted into law.

(9) On March 4, 1972, a Migratory Bird Treaty with Japan was signed.

(10) On March 10, 1972, the Migratory Bird Treaty with Mexico was amended.

C. Establishment of the Division of Law Enforcement.

(1) On July 1, 1972, the waterfowl management responsibilities of the Division of Management and Enforcement were transferred to the Office of Migratory Bird Management and the Division title was changed to the Division of Law Enforcement effective September 28, 1972.

(2) On October 21, 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 became law.

(3) On October 12, 1973, 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.

(4) On December 28, 1973, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 became law.

(5) On July 1, 1974, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

(6) On July 1, 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entered into force.

(7) In July, 1975, the Service assigned the first Wildlife Inspectors to eight designated ports of entry to inspect and clear importations and exportations of fish and wildlife shipments. The eight ports originally designated were Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles, California; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and New York, New York/Newark, New Jersey.

(8) On November 19, 1976, a Migratory Bird Treaty with the U.S.S.R. was signed.

D. More Recent Developments (Since 1980).

(1) On November 16, 1981, the Black Bass and Lacey Acts were repealed and replaced by the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981.

(2) In response to public request, in 1981, the Service added Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, as a designated port of entry for importing and exporting fish and wildlife.

(3) On October 1, 1982, the field organization of the Division of Law Enforcement was reduced from 12 to 7 Districts, one for each Region of the Service.

(4) On December 31, 1982, the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 (16 USC 742l) was amended to provide permanent authority to use appropriations to pay for evidence, information, rewards and conduct undercover businesses and operations.

(5) On October 1, 1987, the titles "Special Agent in Charge" and "Assistant Special Agent in Charge" were changed to "Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement" and "Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement", except for those positions within Division headquarters.

(6) On November 7, 1988, the African Elephant Conservation Act became law.

(7) On December 5, 1988, the Service eliminated the practice of issuing United States Deputy Game Warden commissions. In lieu of the Deputy Game Warden program the Service initiated a program of cooperative law enforcement agreements with other law enforcement agencies.

(8) On June 28, 1989, a dedication ceremony was held for the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. (Note that on April 2, 1991, the name was officially changed to the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory.)

(9) In 1990, Congress allocated specific funds to establish Portland, Oregon, as the tenth designated port of entry.

(10) On October 23, 1992, the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 became law.

(11) In 1993, Congress directed the Service to designate Baltimore, Maryland, as the eleventh port of entry for fish and wildlife shipments.

(12) On July 28, 1994, by Congressional direction, Boston, Massachusetts, was designated as the twelfth port of entry for importing and exporting fish and wildlife.

(13) In September, 1994, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was amended.

4.4 Enforcement Officer Titles. The titles of Federal wildlife law enforcement officers have changed over time as the following table shows.

1900-1918 - Inspector, Interstate Commerce in Game
1918-1928 - U.S. Game Warden
1928-1934 - U.S. Game Protector
1934-1973 - U.S. Game Management Agent
1973- - Special Agent

4.5 Chiefs of Law Enforcement. Exhibit 1 lists the chiefs of the Division of Law Enforcement.



For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management, at Krista_Bibb@fws.gov 


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