Virginia Field Office
Northeast Region
News and Highlights

Public Comments Sought by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Improving Incidental Take Permit Process for Bald and Golden Eagles

Septmeber 13, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking public input on potential approaches to improve the permitting of incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The bald eagle’s recovery is one of the United States’ most important wildlife conservation success stories. The Service’s intent for both bald and golden eagles is to ensure that the regulations for these permits are consistent with the goal of maintaining stable or increasing breeding populations.

“As the nation moves to build back better, the Service and the regulated community share an interest in introducing greater efficiency and predictability into the eagle incidental take permitting process, while ensuring stable or increasing breeding populations of bald and golden eagles,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon A. Estenoz. “We are soliciting public input and feedback on potential approaches to make the permitting process more effective and efficient.”

Human development and infrastructure continue to expand in the United States and, at the same time, bald eagle populations are growing throughout their range. The result of these trends is an increasing number of interactions between eagles and industrial infrastructure and a corresponding need for the Service to process more applications for incidental take of eagles.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) prohibits the harm and possession of bald and golden eagles and their parts, nests or eggs, except pursuant to federal regulations. The Eagle Act also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations to permit the taking of eagles for various purposes, provided the taking is compatible with the preservation of the bald eagle or the golden eagle.

Permits for the incidental, or unintentional, take of eagles were first established in 2009 and revised in 2016 to authorize incidental take of bald and golden eagles that results from a broad spectrum of activities, such as utility infrastructure, energy development, residential and commercial construction and resource recovery.

The Service is now publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit public input and feedback on potential approaches to improve permitting of incidental take of eagles. The ANPR will publish in the Federal Register on September 14, 2021, opening a 45-day public comment period until October 29, 2021.

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AZA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announce Federal Reimbursement Program for Endangered Species Care During Pandemic

September 13, 2021: Zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens and other facilities across the nation that suffered significant revenue losses due to Covid-19 are receiving a boost to help with their continued care for threatened and endangered plants and animals. Today, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief, funded by the American Rescue Plan. This call for proposals will reimburse facilities that had pandemic-related revenue losses of 25% or more to help cover the costs of their work to help protect these valued species.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many plant and animal care facilities had to shut down or significantly reduce public visitation. As of May 2020, 94 percent of AZA’s membership was closed to the public due to necessary pandemic precautions. Despite being closed to the public, zoos, aquariums and other partners such as science centers, botanic gardens and conservation centers, continued to provide exceptional care for the plants and animals at their sites.

While sustaining revenue losses well in excess of $2 billion, zoos, aquariums and other facilities found ways to continue their commitments to the rescue and recovery of endangered and threatened species while helping combat illegal wildlife trade.

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2), Congress recognized the dedication of these facilities in helping save animals and plants from extinction by appropriating $30 million to reimburse expenses related to the care of captive species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as rescued and confiscated wildlife that are at risk of extinction. This funding was provided by the Service to AZA to execute this program, consistent with direction from Congress.

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Interior Announces Largest Expansion of Fishing and Hunting on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Managed Lands and Waters

August 30, 2021: The Department of the Interior announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has opened new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres, the largest expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities in recent history.

The increased recreational access, which covers 88 National Wildlife Refuges and one National Fish Hatchery, is consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.

“Increasing access to outdoor recreation opportunities is essential to advancing the Administration’s commitment to the conservation stewardship of our public lands,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Responsible hunting and fishing helps to promote healthy wildlife habitats while boosting local recreation economies.”

“Today’s announcement furthers a rich tradition of providing quality outdoor recreation experiences to the American people on our public lands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “By expanding these opportunities, we are enhancing the lives of millions of Americans while stimulating the national economy to which hunting and fishing contribute significantly.”

The Service manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations while also offering other wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

This final rule opens or expands 910 opportunities for hunting or fishing (an ‘opportunity’ is defined as one species on one field station). This final rule represents the most significant opening and expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities by the Service than ever before. Today’s action brings the number of units in the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 434 and the number where fishing will be permitted to 378.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Contest Regulations

August 24, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published final regulations governing the annual Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Contest – also known as the Federal Duck Stamp Contest – beginning with the 2022 contest. These revisions provide artists more flexibility when designing their art and broaden the appeal of the Duck Stamp to a more diverse audience.

“The waterfowl hunting community is immensely supportive of the Federal Duck Stamp, one of our nation’s most well-known and revered wildlife conservation programs,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “For nearly a century, Duck Stamps have generated more than $1.1 billion in sales used to acquire 6 million acres of wetland habitats that help address the impacts of climate change, purify water supplies and provide economic support to local communities as they attract outdoor recreationists from many different backgrounds.”

This final rule removes the “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme and the mandatory inclusion of an appropriate hunting element beginning with the 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Contest; changes the judging requirements to consider that the entries reflect this theme; and revises the qualifications for selection as a judge. Since the implementation of the 2020 final regulations, which made the hunting theme a permanent requirement, many stakeholders and artists have continued to express their dissatisfaction with this element being mandatory for all entries.

Funds generated from Duck Stamp sales are used to protect waterfowl and wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Numerous other birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians benefit from habitat protected by the Duck Stamp revenues, including an estimated one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species. The healthy wetlands protected by Duck Stamp funding sequester carbon and contribute to addressing the impacts of climate change, including absorbing flood waters and storm surge.

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Proposal for Rufa Red Knot Critical Habitat Available

July 14, 2021: On July 15, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the threatened population of rufa red knot under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The knot is a robin-sized shorebird that relies on U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts to fuel its remarkable migrations from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America. 

The proposed 649,066 acres of occupied migration and wintering areas in 120 units of critical habitat across 13 states, focuses conservation in the areas along the coasts with the most rufa red knot activity. The proposal only includes states within the rufa red knot's U.S. range that have areas meeting the definition of occupied critical habitat.

Since the rufa red knot was listed in 2015, continued coordination has allowed the Service to determine that a critical habitat designation would not require the agency to expand its current approach in reviewing federal actions such as those involving recreation, development or other activities in red knot habitat. Rather, the proposed critical habitat reinforces the project modifications the Service has already recommended for years in hundreds of consultations.

Critical habitat is defined as specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed in accordance with the ESA, on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species, and which may require special management considerations or protection.  
It can also include areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species, but the Service did not recommend this for the rufa red knot. The Service applied information about the rufa red knot’s needs to identify the following physical and biological features: beaches and tidal flats used for foraging; upper beach areas used for roosting, preening, resting or sheltering; ephemeral and/or dynamic coastal features used for foraging or roosting; ocean vegetation deposits or surf-cast wrack used for foraging or roosting; intertidal peat banks used for foraging and roosting; features landward of the beach that support foraging or roosting; or artificial habitat mimicking natural conditions or maintaining features one to six.

A detailed step-down methodology was developed for identifying proposed critical habitat units. The methodology ensured consistent rufa red knot use and considered migration patterns, landforms and breaks in suitable habitats, food availability and other elements.  

The proposal is underpinned by a 2020 scientific species status assessment that underwent expert, partner and peer review, including input from at least 40 agencies and organizations. Sources of data include 2020 eBird data and many local and regional sources, such as reports, databases, and geolocator/resighting data maintained by state wildlife agencies, universities, local governments, and nonprofit organizations across the range of the species.  

The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on July 15, opening a 60-day public comment period through September 13, 2021. Today you can find an advance copy of the rule in the Federal Register reading room here: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/current. Comments can be submitted through regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R5–ES–2021–0032.  

Additionally, the Service will hold a virtual public meeting and hearing via Zoom and teleconference on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm Eastern time. Registration is required in advance. Additional information can be found here: https://fws.gov/northeast/red-knot/.  

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New Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp Soar Into Their Debut by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

June 25, 2021: Hunters, birders and stamp collectors celebrated as the 2021-2022 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – commonly known as the Duck Stamp – went on sale. The new Federal Duck Stamp and its younger sibling, the Junior Duck Stamp, debuted today and are now available for purchase.

“As one of the most well-known and revered conservation programs in the country, I am excited to buy my very own Federal and Junior Duck Stamps to help contribute to waterfowl and wetland conservation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I am so encouraged by the enthusiasm this program and the annual design competitions continue to elicit. I feel proud to both support this artwork and invest in the protection of wetlands and outdoor spaces for future generations.”

The Federal Duck Stamp plays a critically important role in wildlife conservation. Since 1934, sales of this stamp have raised more than $1.1 billion to protect over 6 million acres of wetlands habitat on national wildlife refuges around the nation.

“Purchasing Federal Duck Stamps is a great way to support bird habitat conservation and is one of the most successful conservation tools in our toolbox. Of every dollar spent on a duck stamp, 98 cents of the purchase goes directly to acquiring and protecting waterfowl habitat, said Martha Williams, Service Principal Deputy Director. “First Day of Sale is also our opportunity to celebrate and congratulate the youth artists who lend their talents to the Junior Duck Stamp.

Waterfowl are not the only species that benefit from wetland habitat preservation. Thousands upon thousands of shorebirds, herons, raptors and songbirds, as well as mammals, fish, native plants, reptiles and amphibians rely on these landscapes as well. An estimated one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species take advantage of these habitats.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Clamps Down on the Illegal Mitten Crab Trade

June 23, 2021: Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of Operation Mitten Catcher, an international law enforcement investigation that prevented the illegal import of approximately 15,525 live Chinese mitten crabs into the U.S. Mitten crabs are considered a culinary delicacy in Asia and are smuggled into the U.S. in mass quantities in preparation for Chinese New Year and other cultural events. With the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Environment and Climate Change Canada, Service wildlife inspectors seized the crabs at U.S. express hubs and major international airports. Smugglers had falsely declared the shipments as 100% polyester gowns, plastic molds, plastic storage bags and other commercial products. “Chinese mitten crabs pose a significant threat to humans, the environment and our economy,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. “I would like to thank U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Environment and Climate Change Canada for their assistance with this operation. Together, we can help combat invasive species and end the illegal wildlife trade.”Chinese mitten crabs are one of North America’s most invasive species and pose a serious threat to humans and the environment. In high densities, they can cause a number of problems including out‐competing native species for food and space; undermining flood levees; causing stream bank erosion; clogging screens, pumps and water intake structures at fish collection facilities and power plants; and hurting commercial and recreational fishing industries by consuming bait, damaging fishing nets and devouring catch. The species is also a carrier of Oriental lung fluke, a parasitic disease that can be transferred to humans in raw or undercooked crab meat. Fortunately, the Service works with specialists who test seized species for disease and the fluke has not yet been found in mitten crabs collected within the U.S. In the U.S, mitten crabs have spread to California waterways, the Chesapeake and Delaware bays and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The crabs were introduced either intentionally to create a future food supply or accidentally through the discharge of contaminated ship ballast water. Female mitten crabs are capable of producing 250,000 - 1,000,000 eggs per brood and crabs can migrate up to 11 miles per day.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Proposed Change to Federal Duck Stamp Contest

June 22, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to revise regulations governing the annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) Contest beginning with the 2022 contest. The proposed revisions would provide artists more flexibility when designing their art and broaden the appeal of the Duck Stamp to more audiences. “More than $1.1 billion in Duck Stamp sales have been used to acquire wetland habitats that help sequester carbon and contribute to addressing the impacts of climate change, purify water supplies, provide economic support to local communities and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Waterfowl hunters have been significant supporters of the program and have had a profound role in wetland and waterfowl conservation over the last century. The intent of this proposal is to allow artists more freedom of expression when designing their entries.” This proposed rule would remove the permanent “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme and the mandatory inclusion of an appropriate hunting element beginning with the 2022 contest; revise the judging requirements to consider that the entries reflect this theme; and revisit the qualifications for selection as a judge. Since the implementation of the 2020 final regulations, many stakeholders have continued to express their dissatisfaction with this element being a requirement for all entries. Funds generated from Duck Stamp sales are used to protect waterfowl and wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Numerous other birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians benefit from habitat protected by the Duck Stamp revenues, including an estimated one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Publishes Birds of Conservation Concern 2021

June 15, 2021: In continuing proactive efforts to protect migratory birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released its Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 report. The publication identifies 269 species of birds that represent high conservation priorities for the Service and deserve proactive attention. This science will be used for cooperative research, monitoring and management actions that can directly or indirectly affect migratory birds with the help of international, federal, state, Tribal and private partners. “This report serves as an early warning indicator for bird species in trouble and will help stimulate the collaborative conservation action needed to bring back declining bird species well before they become threatened or endangered, said Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Almost 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970, and this scientific information will help focus conservation efforts where they are most needed.”

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to Propose Regulatory Revisions to Endangered Species Act

June 4, 2021: The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (together the “Services”) have released a plan to improve and strengthen implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The set of proposed actions follows Executive Order 13990, which directed all federal agencies to review and address agency actions during the last four years that conflict with Biden-Harris administration objectives, such as addressing climate change. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working with diverse federal, Tribal, state and industry partners to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st century challenges,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “We look forward to continuing these conservation collaborations and to ensuring our efforts are fully transparent and inclusive.”

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USGS, FWS Report Highlights Impacts of Sediment Management on Barrier Islands, Wildlife and Ecosystems

June 2, 2021: Coastal sediment management practices, such as dredging and beach nourishment, can have beneficial and detrimental impacts on the physical and ecological resiliency of barrier islands, particularly when sediment is removed from one barrier island system and placed in another, according to a report released today. Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the report provides resource managers valuable information they can use to evaluate impacts of sediment removal and placement within barrier islands, including those addressed by the Coastal Barrier Resources System. The CBRS is comprised of relatively undeveloped coastal barriers along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes coasts that are depicted on a set of maps maintained by FWS. Barrier islands, the narrow low-lying landforms located at the interface of land and sea, play a key role in storm protection for coastal communities and infrastructure and serve as important habitats for many coastal and marine species.

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President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Makes Significant Investments in Conservation and Addressing Climate Change

May 28, 2021: The Biden-Harris administration today submitted to Congress the President’s budget for fiscal year 2022, including a proposed budget of $1.9 billion to fund the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s principal resource management and conservation programs. The budget proposal provides an increase of $331.3 million over the 2021 enacted level to support local conservation partnership programs, improve targeted conservation efforts, restore damaged lands, and promote locally led efforts of all kinds wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love. “The Interior Department plays an important role in the President’s plan to reinvest in the American people. From bolstering climate resiliency and increasing renewable energy, to supporting Tribal Nations and advancing environmental justice, President Biden’s budget will make much-needed investments in communities and projects that will advance our vision for a robust and equitable clean energy future,” said Secretary Deb Haaland.

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Service Announces Endangered Species Recovery Champion Awards

May 21, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced recipients of the 2020 Recovery Champion award, which honors Service employees and partners for outstanding efforts to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. These individuals were honored as Recovery Champions for work to conserve species ranging from the spectacled eider, a large sea duck that breeds along Alaska's coastline, to palo de rosa, a small evergreen tree found in forests of Puerto Rico.

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More than $27 Million Announced to Fund the Protection of Migratory Birds Throughout the Americas

May 18, 2021: Twenty-one years ago, the passage of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) spurred new opportunities for innovation in bird conservation that continues today. This year, birds and people throughout the Americas will benefit from a new round of projects under the act, totaling more than $27 million in federal grants and matching funds.

The NMBCA provides critical support each year for bird conservation and research throughout the Western Hemisphere. It is the only source of federal funding solely dedicated to the conservation of our shared migratory bird heritage. This year, more than $4.8 million in federal funds will be matched by more than $22.5 million in partner contributions going to 30 collaborative conservation projects in 23 countries across the Americas.

“Birds bring millions of Americans joy and connection to nature. Migratory bird conservation extends beyond our borders and depends on partnerships with other nations as well as states, Tribes, conservation organizations and many others here in the U.S.,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “What happens in Latin America and the Caribbean affects the birds that visit our backyards every spring and summer. These grants will support cooperative conservation projects and research throughout the hemisphere.” 

 Press Release


Interior Department Takes Steps to Revoke Final Rule on Migratory Bird Treaty Act Incidental Take

May 6, 2021: Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule to revoke the January 7, 2021, final regulation that limited the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Significant concerns about the interpretation of the MBTA have been raised by the public, legal challenges in court and from the international treaty partners.

This proposed rule provides the public with notice of the Service’s intent to revoke the January 7 rule’s interpretation of the MBTA and return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent.

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law that is critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s actions will serve to better align Interior with its mission and ensure that our decisions are guided by the best-available science.”

“Migratory bird conservation is an integral part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “We have heard from our partners, the public, Tribes, states and numerous other stakeholders from across the country that it is imperative the previous administration’s rollback of the MBTA be reviewed to ensure continued progress toward commonsense standards that protect migratory birds.”

 Press Release


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Promotes Public Access to Hunting and Fishing in Largest Expansion of Opportunities to Date

May 4, 2021: Continuing the Department of the Interior’s efforts to increase recreational access on public lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today a proposal for new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species across 2.1 million acres at 90 national wildlife refuges and on the lands of one national fish hatchery.

“We are committed to ensuring Americans of all backgrounds have access to hunting and fishing and other recreational activities on our public lands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Hunters and anglers are some of our most ardent conservationists and they play an important role in ensuring the future of diverse and healthy wildlife populations. Our lands have also provided a much-needed outlet to thousands during the pandemic and we hope these additional opportunities will provide a further connection with nature, recreation and enjoyment.”

Increasing access to public lands and waters is a central component of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to conservation, including the efforts to conserve 30 percent of U.S lands and waters by 2030. This proposed rule would open or expand 939 opportunities for hunting or sport fishing (an opportunity is one species on one field station). The expansion proposed in this rule is the largest in recent history – including last year’s proposed rule which itself was larger than the previous five rules combined.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — pursue wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

 Press Release


Secretary Haaland Announces Nearly $80 Million in Funding for Wetland Conservation Projects and National Wildlife Refuges

April 21, 2021: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today announced that $78 million in grants has been approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which will provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners the ability to help conserve or restore nearly 500,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across North America – including Canada and Mexico. The grants, made through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), will be matched by nearly $125 million in partner funds.

In addition, the Commission approved $1.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve land in three national wildlife refuges for public use and hunt programs. The Commission, which is chaired by Secretary Haaland, convened today for the inaugural meeting of the Biden-Harris administration.

“It’s remarkable that the programs we are discussing were established before we appreciated what climate change was – or how threatened many bird populations are,” said Secretary Haaland. “Not too long ago, a study found that there are 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were 50 years ago. This Commission’s investments are critical to keep habitats whole and connected and help birds flourish for the next hundred years and beyond.”

Wetlands provide many economic, ecological and social benefits. They are also important protections from the effects of climate change such as flooding and rising seas. NAWCA grants conserve bird populations and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and outdoor recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing and birdwatching. Partners in NAWCA projects include private landowners, states, local governments, conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups, Tribes, land trusts and corporations.

 Press Release


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Critical Habitat for Freshwater Mussel

April 7, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has finalized critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the yellow lance, a freshwater mussel found only in the rivers and streams of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. The species was listed as threatened under the ESA in 2018 following population declines due to habitat loss and degradation.

The eleven critical habitat units designated for the yellow lance sit within the Patuxent, Rappahannock, York, James, Chowan, Tar and Neuse River Basins in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Totaling 319 river miles, the units fall within Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Vance, Wake and Warren Counties, North Carolina; Brunswick, Craig, Culpeper, Dinwiddie, Fauquier, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Nottoway, Orange and Rappahannock Counties, Virginia; and Howard and Montgomery Counties in Maryland. All units are currently occupied by the yellow lance and do not include upland habitats, only streambeds to the high-water mark. No unoccupied units have been designated.

The rule Docket No. FWS-FWS-R4-ES-2018-0094 is available and has an effective date of Monday, May 10, 2021.

 Press Release


America’s Bald Eagle Population Continues to Soar

March 24, 2021: Populations of the American bald eagle — the bold national symbol of the United States — have quadrupled since 2009, according to a new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners. Bald eagles once teetered on the brink of extinction, reaching an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. However, after decades of protection, the banning of the pesticide DDT, and conservation efforts with numerous partners, the bald eagle population has flourished, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs.

According to scientists from the Service’s Migratory Bird Program, the bald eagle population climbed to an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles in the lower 48 states. This indicates the bald eagle population has continued to increase rapidly since our previous survey. The information is now available in the new technical report: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Report: Bald Eagle Population Size: 2020 Update.

“Today’s announcement is truly a historic conservation success story. Announcements like ours today give me hope. I believe that we have the opportunity of a lifetime to protect our environment and our way of life for generations to come. But we will only accomplish great things if we work together,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

 Press Release


American Rescue Plan Provides Critical Support for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Programs

March 12, 2021: The American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed by President Biden March 12, 2021, invests $105 million to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners address pandemic-related impacts to wildlife. The funds will support work to prevent future pandemics by combating wildlife trafficking and addressing wildlife diseases that could impact the health and welfare of communities across the nation and around the globe.

“The Service serves on the front lines of the nation’s response to halting wildlife trafficking and to better understanding and preventing wildlife diseases that could lead to global pandemics such as COVID-19,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “We stand ready to deploy these critical funds to amplify our existing work to protect the American people and cherished wildlife resources at home and abroad.”  

Press Release


States Receive $55 Million to Protect Vulnerable Wildlife

February 26, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is distributing $55 million to state wildlife agencies through the State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program to conserve imperiled wildlife and their habitats using the best available science. Ensuring species nationwide will benefit, grant funds are allocated to all states, commonwealths and territories according to a congressionally mandated formula based on population size and geographic area.

“State wildlife agencies conduct critical conservation work,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “The SWG Program allows the Service to support their unique authority and expertise in managing vulnerable species. Together, we create nationwide conservation networks that protect species before they need the conservation triage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

The SWG Program funds projects that accelerate the recovery of endangered species and can prevent others from being listed under the ESA. Since its inception 20 years ago, the Program has contributed to a myriad of conservation success stories.

Press Release


$1 Billion Sent to State Wildlife Agencies, Bolstering Conservation Projects and Recreation Opportunities

February 25, 2021: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is distributing $1 billion to state wildlife agencies through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). Generated by the hunting and angling industry, these funds support regional conservation projects across the country. The 2021 WSFR apportionment is $121 million higher than the 2020 apportionment due to increases in firearm, fishing equipment and motorboat fuel revenues.

“The WSFR partnership among states, industry and the Service is a keystone conservation program in the United States because it creates a relationship between outdoor recreationists and the natural resources they enjoy,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “State agencies use these funds to manage wildlife and improve their habitats, which also benefits outdoor recreationists.”

Rooted in the Pittman–Robertson Act of 1937, the Dingell–Johnson Act of 1950, and the Wallop–Breaux Amendment of 1984, the WSFR program establishes a conservation partnership among state wildlife agencies, the outdoor industry and the Service. When hunters, anglers and boaters purchase equipment and fuel, the manufacturers, producers and importers of those goods pay into the Wildlife Restoration, Sport Fish Restoration and Boating trust funds. These funds are distributed by the Service to ensure wildlife agencies in all states, commonwealths and territories receive support.

“State fish and wildlife agencies are critically important to this nation’s on-the-ground conservation efforts,” said Sara Parker Pauley, Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “The Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration (WSFR) Program provides funding for states to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, their habitats and the hunting, sport fishing and recreational boating opportunities they provide for generations to come.”

Press Release


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Awards More Than $27 Million to Help Coastal Wetland Ecosystems Become More Resilient, Boost Economy and Support Conservation

February 24, 2021: Coastal areas are highly vulnerable to climate change, and many have already been dramatically altered and stressed by storms, sea level rise, human activity and invasive species. Coastal wetland habitat conservation is critical to ensure that important habitat, wildlife and coastal communities continue to thrive for future generations. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will award more than $27 million to support 33 projects in 14 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance almost 28,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

State, local and tribal governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute more than $22.2 million in additional funds to these projects. These grants will have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flood risk, stabilizing shorelines and protecting natural ecosystems.

“The projects funded by the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program will strengthen partnerships with numerous public, non-profit and private stakeholders while directly conserving and restoring thousands of acres of vital coastal habitat and inland wetlands,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “These grants will help ensure that coastal resources that are put at risk by pollution, development and the uncertainties of a changing climate are conserved.”

The 2021 grants will also help recover coastal-dependent species, enhance flood protection and water quality, provide economic benefits to coastal communities and tribes, and increase outdoor recreational opportunities.

Press Release


Service Announces $7.4 Million in Grants to Help Protect Imperiled Species

January 13, 2021: Vulnerable wildlife across the nation will benefit from approximately $7.4 million in grants thanks to the Competitive State Wildlife Grant (C-SWG) Program. The program supports projects led by state and commonwealth fish and wildlife agencies protecting imperiled wildlife and their habitat. This year’s grantees include agencies in Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. They will implement 17 conservation projects that span 28 states and four commonwealths.

“No administration has recovered more imperiled species in their first term than the Trump Administration. State agencies are essential conservation partners for the Service and the administration, and through the C-SWG Program, we can empower local leaders as they work to protect nationally and locally important species,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “By protecting these species now, we can potentially prevent them from being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

The C-SWG Program employs a nationally competitive process to select and fund projects that conserve species listed in State Wildlife Action Plans. All 56 state, territorial and commonwealth wildlife agencies have such plans, which target state-identified Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Supporting these projects can accelerate the recovery of endangered species and potentially prevent others from being listed. The Program also facilitates collaboration among state, federal, tribal and non-governmental fish and wildlife managers, creating nationwide conservation networks. Fortifying this spirit of collaboration are $2.8 million in non-federal funds provided by states and their partners.

Press Release


New Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp Soar Into Their Debut by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

June 25, 2021: Hunters, birders and stamp collectors celebrated as the 2021-2022 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – commonly known as the Duck Stamp – went on sale. The new Federal Duck Stamp and its younger sibling, the Junior Duck Stamp, debuted today and are now available for purchase.

“As one of the most well-known and revered conservation programs in the country, I am excited to buy my very own Federal and Junior Duck Stamps to help contribute to waterfowl and wetland conservation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I am so encouraged by the enthusiasm this program and the annual design competitions continue to elicit. I feel proud to both support this artwork and invest in the protection of wetlands and outdoor spaces for future generations.”

The Federal Duck Stamp plays a critically important role in wildlife conservation. Since 1934, sales of this stamp have raised more than $1.1 billion to protect over 6 million acres of wetlands habitat on national wildlife refuges around the nation.

“Purchasing Federal Duck Stamps is a great way to support bird habitat conservation and is one of the most successful conservation tools in our toolbox. Of every dollar spent on a duck stamp, 98 cents of the purchase goes directly to acquiring and protecting waterfowl habitat, said Martha Williams, Service Principal Deputy Director. “First Day of Sale is also our opportunity to celebrate and congratulate the youth artists who lend their talents to the Junior Duck Stamp.

Waterfowl are not the only species that benefit from wetland habitat preservation. Thousands upon thousands of shorebirds, herons, raptors and songbirds, as well as mammals, fish, native plants, reptiles and amphibians rely on these landscapes as well. An estimated one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species take advantage of these habitats.

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Interior least tern incubating eggs at Glacier National Park.
An interior least tern incubating eggs. Credit:USFWS

Trump Administration Celebrates Recovery of America's Smallest Tern

January 12 , 2020: After more than three decades of conservation partnerships inspired by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating the delisting of the interior least tern due to recovery. Thanks to the diverse efforts of local, state and federal stakeholders across an 18-state range, the interior least tern's populations are healthy, stable and increasing.

Press Release


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Regulation Clarifying the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Implementation

January 5, 2021: Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is publishing a final regulation that defines the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Consistent with the text, purpose and history of the MBTA, the final regulation clarifies that conduct resulting in unintentional (incidental) injury or death of migratory birds is not prohibited under the MBTA. This rule provides regulatory certainty to the public, industries, states, tribes and other stakeholders about implementation of the MBTA and best practices for conservation.

“This rule simply reaffirms the original meaning and intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by making it clear that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not prosecute landowners, industry and other individuals for accidentally killing a migratory bird. This opinion has been adopted by several courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Press Release



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Last updated: September 16, 2021