Spill Response | Overview
Tom MacKenzie, USFWS
Oil spills and other hazardous substance releases threaten millions of miles of coastline, river systems, lakes, and terrestrial habitat, particularly where there is extensive drilling, refining, and transport of these materials. Serious, and potentially permanent, damage to the environment and the nation's natural resources is possible from these spills.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the primary federal agency and trustee responsible for protecting threatened and endangered species; migratory birds; and certain fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles. As a major federal landowner, the agency is also responsible for preparing for and responding to spills that may impact its 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System. The goal of the Service is to emphasize early contingency planning and cooperation at the local, regional, and national levels to effectively respond to oil spills and hazardous substance releases. In the event that a spill or release does occur, the Service works collaboratively with other federal agencies of the Department of Interior, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture; state conservation agencies; tribal governments; and other organizations to minimize the injury to fish, wildlife, and their habitats.
Effectively responding to oil spills and hazardous substance releases involves ample preparation, including specialized training, building and maintaining relationships with our partners in the response community, and considerable pre-spill coordination and planning with all parties potentially involved in a response.
While prevention is the Service's top priority, we also ensure our employees are prepared to respond to oil spills and hazardous substance releases when they do occur. The Service often supports the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Coast Guard – the lead federal spill response agencies – by taking a leading role in wildlife protection. Field staff use a variety of methods to deter wildlife, especially birds, from areas contaminated by oil or a hazardous substance. In addition, field biologists' knowledge of local resources and sensitive ecological areas is invaluable to the managers directing response activities, prioritizing spill countermeasures, and conducting clean-up work. Our advice is particularly important when wetlands, refuge lands, endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, or the habitat supporting these species are potentially or physically impacted.
The Service plays another critical role in spill response by working with federal, state, and tribal co-trustees to assess the injuries to natural resources and, when certain conditions apply, pursuing a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration case to restore injured resources to pre-spill conditions.
The Service is committed to its role as a trustee and partner in conserving the nation's natural resources. Maintaining our spill response capacity and working to prevent or minimize the impact of oil spills and hazardous substance releases and restore affected natural resources is a key element of this commitment.
For all the details, download the Spill Response fact sheet
Report a spill or an environmental violation
Wildlife and Habitat Conservation
- Conservation Planning