Office of Law Enforcement
Protecting Wildlife and Plant Resources
Law Enforcement History: 1976 - Present


The United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Regional Offices of the Service hired wildlife inspectors at eight designated ports of entry to inspect wildlife. The eight ports were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Honolulu.


The Supreme Court , in the case of Andrus v. Allard, upheld the prohibition on the sale of migratory bird feathers, regardless of whether they were obtained before federal protection took effect.

The number of district offices was reduced to 12 when the Kansas City District Office was consolidated with the Denver, Colorado, District Office.


The Black Bass and Lacey Acts were repealed and replaced by the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981. This comprehensive statute restored protection for migratory birds, which had been removed from the Act in 1969, and introduced protection for plants. The Lacey Act Amendments increased penalties and included a felony punishment scheme to target commercial violators and international traffickers. Penalties included fines of up to $20,000 or five years imprisonment, or both.

Dallas-Fort Worth became a designated port for wildlife entering or leaving the United States.


The Endangered Species Act was amended to include a prohibition against taking plants on federal lands and a new exception allowing the inadvertent, non-commercial transshipment through the United States of endangered fish or wildlife.

The field organization of the Division of Law Enforcement was reduced from 12 to seven districts, one for each region of the Service.


The Service's Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) became operational.


The Supreme Court, in the case of Dwight Dion, upheld the applicability of the Eagle Protection Act to Native Americans on reservations.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended to require that felony violations be "knowingly" committed.


The African Elephant Conservation Act became law, providing additional protection for the species, whose numbers had declined by 50 percent in the last decade.

The Lacey Act was amended to include, among other things, felony provisions for commercial guiding violations.


The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory was dedicated in Ashland, Oregon. It's mission was to provide scientific expertise to assist in investigations, ranging from species identification to technical assistance such as surveillance and photography. The Laboratory was renamed the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in memory of Clark R. Bavin, who served as chief of the Division of Law Enforcement from 1972 until his death in 1990.


Portland, Oregon, became the 10th designated port of entry for the importation and exportation of wildlife.


Baltimore, Maryland, became the 11th designated port of entry.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 was signed into law to address problems with the international trade in wild-caught birds-trade that contributed to the decline of species and featured unacceptably high mortality rates.


Boston, Massachusetts, became the Nation's 12th designated port.


Designated port status was conferred on Atlanta, Georgia.


The Division of Law Enforcement was removed from the supervision of the Assistant Director-Refuges and Wildlife to report instead directly to the Service Director. The Washington headquarters office was renamed the Office of Law Enforcement.


The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act eliminated strict liability from the enforcement of baiting prohibitions, substituting a "know or reasonably should know: standard for charging individuals for hunting with bait. The Act increased the penalty for hunting over bait and made placing bait a separate federal crime.

Reauthorization of the Rhinoceros-Tiger Conservation Act prohibited the import, export, or sale of any product, item, or substance containing, or labeled as containing, any substance derived from tiger and rhinoceros.


A Service reorganization established the position of Assistant Director for Law Enforcement within the Directorate, providing executive level leadership for the agency's law enforcement program.

Historical Developement of Wildlife Law Enforcement in the United States Continued:

1900 - 1950
1951 - 1975

Back to Historical Background page.

Last updated: February 14, 2013