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Acts & Regulations

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Endangered Species Act (ESA)
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is the primary statute we administer.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is part of the Department of the Interior and has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms.  The ESA is also administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service which has responsibility for marine species, although a few species have joint responsibilities. The purpose of the ESA is to conserve “the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend” and to conserve and recover listed species.  The sections of the Act that we most frequently encounter are:

  • Section 3: Definitions
  • Section 4: Determination of Threatened and Endangered Species    Ozark Hellbender  
    • Listing: Species and Critical habitat
    • Protective Regulations
    • Recovery
    • Delisting
  • Section 6: Cooperation with the States
  • Section 7: Interagency Cooperation
    • Affirmative Conservation Mandate
    • Duty to Avoid Jeopardy and Adverse Modification of Critical Habitat
  •  Section 9: Prohibited Acts
  • Section 10: Exceptions
  • Section 11: Penalties and Enforcement

To learn more about the ESA, check out our ESA Basics PDF.

A history of the ESA may be found here.

The Section 7 Consultation Regulations in 50 CFR 402 may be found here.

Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) provides the basic authority for the Fish and Wildlife Service's involvement in evaluating impacts to fish and wildlife from proposed water resource development projects. It requires that fish and wildlife resources receive equal consideration to other project features. It also requires Federal agencies that construct, license or permit water resource development projects to first consult with the Service (and the National Marine Fisheries Service in some instances) and State fish and wildlife agency regarding the impacts on fish and wildlife resources and measures to mitigate these impacts.

A more complete discussion of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act and the Service's role in conservation partnerships is found in Water Resources Development Under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. This document is meant to serve as a one-stop shopping guidebook for Service biologists and government and non-government partners in collaborative efforts to advance positive water projects and conserve fish and wildlife resources.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)

For an alphabetical list of MBTA protected birds click here.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The migratory bird species protected by the Act are listed in 50 CFR 10.13. For the current rule and more information click here.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has statutory authority and responsibility for enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) (16 U.S.C. 703–712), the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 742l) and the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a–j).  The MBTA implements Conventions between the United States and four countries (Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia) for the protection of migratory birds.

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)

Monarch Butterfly

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the first and most significant pieces of environmental legislation enacted in the United States. NEPA provides the basic national charter for protection of the environment. NEPA is intended to ensure that information about environmental effects of an agency’s proposal and alternative actions are available to agency decision makers and the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) may provide information for use in NEPA documents and reviews and provides comments on these documents. Through this process, the Service seeks to ensure that impacts to fish and wildlife resources are adequately described and necessary mitigation is provided. The Service’s NEPA goal is “to make better environmental decisions in a cost and time-efficient manner to further our mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continued benefit of the American people.

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

In 1972, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act established a program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 defined navigable waters of the United States as “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tides and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or maybe susceptible to use to transport interstate or foreign commerce." The Clean Water Act built on this definition and defined waters of the United States to include tributaries to navigable waters, interstate wetlands, wetlands which could affect interstate or foreign commerce, and wetlands adjacent to other waters of the United States.

The program is jointly administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Corps is responsible for the day-to-day administration and permit review and EPA provides program oversight. The fundamental rationale of the program is that no discharge of dredged or fill material should be permitted if there is a practicable alternative that would be less damaging to our aquatic resources or if significant degradation would occur to the nation’s waters. Permit review and issuance follows a sequence process that encourages avoidance of impacts, followed by minimizing impacts and, finally, requiring mitigation for unavoidable impacts to the aquatic environment. This sequence is described in the guidelines at Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act.

The Fish and Wildlife Service plays an important advisory role in this process. Wetlands are vital for sustaining fish and wildlife populations in the United States. They provide important feeding, breeding, and migration habitat for a number of species. This includes 50 percent of our migratory bird species and over 30 percent of plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act. Our mission is authorized and accomplished via our various authorities, including: the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, Food Security Act, Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Endangered Species Act.

Wild and Scenic River Act

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition forthe enjoyment of present and future generations. The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes. (Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968)

Rivers may be designated by Congress or, if certain requirements are met, the Secretary of the Interior. Each river is administered by either a federal or state agency. Designated segments need not include the entire river and may include tributaries. For federally administered rivers, the designated boundaries generally average one-quarter mile on either bank in the lower 48 states and one-half mile on rivers outside national parks in Alaska in order to protect river-related values.

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: February 25, 2016

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