AFWA Applauds Interior’s Reaffirmation of States' Primary Role in Fish and Wildlife Management

September 19, 2018

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies applauds the memorandum issued by Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke, on September 10, which reaffirms the primary authority of state fish and wildlife agencies to manage fish and wildlife within their borders, including on DOI land.  The Memorandum states ‘The Department recognizes States as the first-line authorities for fish and wildlife management and hereby expresses its commitment to defer to the States in this regard except as otherwise required by Federal law.’

The memorandum is based on a policy, adopted in 1983, that recognized the primary state authority regarding fish and resident wildlife in the absence of specific, overriding federal law (43 C.F.R Part 24). The memorandum was announced last week by DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Aurelia Skipwith, at the annual meeting of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  In this announcement, Skipwith stated that this memorandum is intended to clarify the relationship between the states and the DOI bureaus and offices, to strengthen the joint state-federal conservation partnership, and to enhance public opportunities to enjoy the benefits of the Nation’s fish and wildlife.

The memorandum includes three key action items:

  • Within 45 days of this Memorandum, all Bureaus and Offices complete a review of all regulations, policies, and guidance that pertains to the conservation and management of fish and wildlife species on lands and waters under their jurisdiction that are more restrictive than otherwise applicable State provisions for the management of fish and wildlife, including all such regulations, policies, and guidance that pertain to public recreational use and enjoyment of fish and wildlife species;
  • Within 90 days, each Bureau and Office referenced provide the Deputy Secretary a report containing detailed recommendations for the respective Bureau or Office to better align its regulations, policies, and guidance with State provisions.
  • After receiving the reports containing detailed recommendations, the Deputy Secretary shall appropriately consult with the State fish and wildlife agencies regarding the recommendations and deliver an implementation plan to me within 120 days of this Memorandum.

Ed Carter, President of the Association, expressed gratitude for this important statement and that “he is looking forward to working with the DOI bureaus in furthering our collaborative commitment to our nation’s great outdoor recreational heritage and conservation stewardship.”