National Wildlife Refuge System

What are Coordination Areas?

Coordination Areas are one of three categories of real property within the National Wildlife Refuge System. All three categories of real property (refuges, waterfowl production areas and coordination areas) exist as part of the administrative structure of the Refuge System which is based on definitions established by the Fish and Wildlife Service in Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The term 'Coordination Area' means a wildlife management area that is made available to a State – “(A) by cooperative agreement between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and a State agency having control over wildlife resources pursuant to section 4 of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act: or (B) by long-term leases or agreements pursuant to title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.”

Although the definition for Coordination Area uses the term “wildlife management area” most of the coordination areas are not called wildlife management areas. In fact, there are units of the Refuge System that are called “wildlife management areas” that are actually included in the categories of refuges and waterfowl production areas. It is also important to note that not all Coordination Areas are actually managed by States.

The Coordination Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to assist Federal, state, and other agencies in developing, protecting, rearing, and stocking fish and wildlife on federal lands and provides for management of such lands by state wildlife agencies, generally when the habitat is primarily for resident species. Other Federal agencies (e.g., Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation) used the Service's authority under the Coordination Act to transfer fish and wildlife management responsibility on their lands to state fish and game agencies.

No specific procedures are required to enter into management agreements which result in the establishment of Coordination Areas. Management rights are generally conveyed through a cooperative agreement.

The majority were established during the 1950s when other federal agencies did not have a mechanism for entering into cooperative agreements with the states. Since that time, most federal agencies have received the authority to enter into agreements with the States and no new Coordination Areas have been established in more than 25 years.

Coordination Areas are units of the National Wildlife Refuge System and are subject to the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act of 1966. However, they are managed by state fish and wildlife agencies which have nearly full jurisdiction.

Last updated: November 8, 2012