The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conserves more than just flora and fauna at America’s national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. As mandated under the National Historic Preservation Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service also conserves tens of thousands of archaeological and historic sites, sacred and traditional areas and scientifically-important museum collections that reflect the long and diverse history and traditions of our nation.

What We Do

Our Services

Through its stewardship of historic properties, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Historic Preservation Program not only complies with federal law, but also engages refuge visitors, deepens their understanding of the nation’s past and builds relationships with local communities. 

The program is staffed by historic preservation professionals meeting the Secretary of the Interior's standards who work throughout the country to help manage and conserve cultural resources. 

The program's objectives are to:

  • Recognize the intrinsic value of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s cultural resources by properly protecting and maintaining them in compliance with historic preservation legislation and Interior Department policy.
  • Plan for the potential public and scientific use of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed cultural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • Maintain and preserve unique cultural resources and make them applicable to our ongoing natural resource and wildlife conservation mission.
  • Identify, evaluate the importance of, and seek the appropriate protective designation of cultural resources in compliance with existing legal requirements, regulations and professional standards.
  • Ensure that when we are conducting activities to meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission and program goals, we do not inadvertently transfer, sell, demolish, or alter our cultural resources until we can adequately identify them, evaluate impacts, and make informed decisions and necessary plans.
  • Prevent or avoid damage and deterioration to cultural resources that result from erosion, abandonment, lack of maintenance and neglect.
  • Encourage and enhance educational, interpretive and research opportunities for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cultural resources consistent with overall Fish and Wildlife Service management objectives.
  • Ensure employees recognize the importance of cultural resources to habitat and land management issues and safeguard them so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can maximize opportunities to enhance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the environmental and cultural contexts of conservation.
  • Protect and manage cultural resources that are important for maintaining the traditional culture of Native American tribes, Native Hawaiian people, Alaska Native people and other traditional communities.

Research Permits

The Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for academic institutions, museums and other organizations to conduct archaeological and paleontological research on Fish and Wildlife Service lands.  An Archaeological Resources Protection Act permit and/or a Paleontological Resources Preservation Act permit is required. Additionally, a special use permit issued by the local land manager is required. If you have questions about obtaining a permit, please contact your Regional Historic Preservation Officer.

Examples of cultural resources we conserve, plus a quiz

Our Laws and Regulations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for implementation of and compliance with many laws, regulations and policies enacted to conserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. While day-to-day activities are often focused primarily on compliance with Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, other important laws include the Antiquities Act of 1906, the Historic Sites Act of 1935, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended, the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009.