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Laws & Regulations

Image of eagle in flight and graphic representing laws and regulations

Thanks to the multi-decade efforts of numerous partners, the bald eagle is now a species on the upswing; marked by its removal from the list of federally threatened and endangered species on August 9, 2007. Although it is delisted, this symbol of our nation still receives federal protection, as does the golden eagle, under the laws highlighted below.

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

Enacted in 1940, the Act provides protection for the bald and golden eagle by prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit (16 U.S.C. 668(a); 50 CFR 22).

The Act also defines the term "Take" to include pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb (16 U.S.C. 668c; 50 CFR 22.3).

In 1972, amendments were made to increase civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act to a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment. The fine doubles for an organization. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction for violation of the Act.

In 2009, new permit regulations were added to allow for the incidental take of eagles and for the take of eagle nests. Our permits pages describe these and other permits allowed by regulations under Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

See the full Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
See the full Code of Federal Regulations for Eagle Permits (50 CFR 22)

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is a Federal law that protect birds that migrate across international borders.It prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation, and importation of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, and nests except as authorized under a valid permit (50 CFR 21.11).

Additionally, the MBTA authorizes and directs the Secretary of the Interior to determine if, and by what means, the take of migratory birds should be allowed and to adopt suitable regulations permitting and governing take (for example, hunting seasons for ducks and geese).

Penalties under the MBTA include a maximum of two years imprisonment and $250,000 fine for a felony conviction and six months imprisonment or $5,000 fine for a misdemenor conviction. Fines double if the violator is an organization rather than an individual.

Looking for more details? Check out this in-depth description of the MBTA.

See the full Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Lacey Act

Passed in 1900, the Lacey Act protects bald eagles by making it a Federal offense to take, possess, transport, sell, import, or export their nests, eggs and parts that are taken in violation of any state, tribal or U.S. law. It also prohibits false records, labels, or identification of wildlife shipped, prohibits importation of injurious species and prohibits shipment of fish or wildlife in an inhumane manner.

Penalties include a maximum of five years and $250,000 fine for felony convictions and a maximum $10,000 fine for civil violations and $250 for marking violations. Fines double for organizations. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction. violation of the Act.

See the full Lacey Act
Bald eagle photo ©Todd Ryburn
Last Updated: January 16, 2015
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