Laws and Regulations

Many laws and regulations direct the work of National Wildlife Refuges. Some of these include:

  • The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act: The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act provides authority, guidelines and directives for the Service to improve the National Wildlife Refuge System; administers a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and habitat; ensures the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuges is maintained; defines compatible wildlife-dependent recreation as appropriate general public use of refuges; establishes hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education as priority uses; establish a formal process for determining compatible uses of refuges; and provide for public involvement in developing comprehensive conservation plans for refuges.
  • The NWRS Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges, and requiring that each refuge be managed according to a CCP. The NWRS Improvement Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose.
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966: The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 directs Federal agencies to preserve, restore, and maintain historic cultural environments.
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 implements four international treaties that affect migratory birds common to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the former Soviet Union. Establishes Federal responsibility for protection and management of migratory and non-game birds, including the establishment of season length, bag limits, and other hunting regulations, and the issuance of permits to band, possess or otherwise make use of migratory birds.


On National Wildlife Refuges wildlife comes first. Refuges are not managed for multiple uses like other public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

A Special Use Permit is required for any commercial use and for any use or activity other than public hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography (except from March 1- June 1), environmental education, and interpretation which are the priority wildlife dependent uses compatible with the purposes for Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. 

Contact the Refuge to find out more about Special Use Permits or visit the USFWS site here: Special Use Permits

Wildlife Photography Permits

A special use permit is required for any commercial photography, filming, or audio/visual production. Applicants must fill out a Commercial Special Use Permit application and submit it to the Refuge Complex.

To protect Greater sage-grouse during the breeding season we require all people obtain a refuge special use permit to photograph near sage grouse leks between March 1 and June 1. If you would like to photograph sage grouse during these times of the year fill out the general special use permit and submit it to the Refuge Complex.

Outfitter and Guide Permits

We allow a limited number of outfitters and guides to operate within the refuge and facilitate big-game hunting opportunities for people who lack the specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities for a truly safe, enjoyable and productive hunting experience. If you are interested in providing these commercial services within Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge fill out a Commercial Special Use Permit and submit it to the Refuge Complex. Applications for a commercial special use permit have no deadline, but require up to a 30 day processing time before a permit is issued. This is a change from the previous July 1 deadline.

Research, Scientific Collection, and Other Permits

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires a research and monitoring special use permit for anyone conducting scientific research, studies, collection of plants or animals or other activities within the refuge. Other permits are required under various wildlife law and treaties at a number of offices throughout the country. Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife. Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activates to go forward.

Other permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are handled by permitting programs in International Affairs (Management Authority), Endangered Species, Law Enforcement, and Migratory Birds.

Visit the National Wildlife Refuge System Web site for more information on Special Use Permits.

For a list of rules and policies specific to Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, please visit our here: Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Rules and Policies.