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Overview:
Part of the Department of the Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) serves as one of the most important federal agencies in the effort to protect endangered species and preserve habitats. FWS oversees a significant number of programs that seek to ensure the viability of coastal ecosystems, bird habitats and migratory routes, and freshwater and saltwater bodies of water for fish species. Along with the National Marine Fisheries Service, FWS is charged with implementing the Endangered Species Act. For much of its history, the agency has been a respected steward of the environment. However, under the leadership of appointees of President George W. Bush, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been routinely criticized by scientists and environmentalists for short-cutting important efforts to protect species threatened with extinction.
 
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History:
In 1871, Congress created the US Commission on Fish and Fisheries, which was charged with studying and recommending solutions to halting the decline in some fish species harvested for food. Additional efforts to study wildlife biology were implemented by the Department of Agriculture in 1885 when it established the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy. Much of the division’s early work focused on studying the positive effects of birds in controlling agricultural pests and defining the geographical distribution of animals and plants throughout the country. The division later was expanded and renamed the Bureau of Biological Survey.
 
By the turn of the 20th Century, concerns over ecology and natural preservation began to take root in the American consciousness, thanks in part to President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1900, Congress adopted the Lacey Act, which became the first federal law protecting game, prohibiting the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife and importation of species. The Bureau of Biological Survey was responsible for enforcing the act. Three years later, the first Federal Bird Reservation was established by President Roosevelt on Pelican Island, Florida, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Biological Survey. Pelican Island and other early Federal wildlife reservations were later re-designated as “national wildlife refuges” in 1942.
 
In 1918, lawmakers passed a landmark piece of legislation with the adoption of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which implemented the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds that provided for the regulation of migratory bird hunting.
 
The 1930s proved to be a seminal time for the conservation and wildlife preservation movements. Thanks to the Depression, the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration to help employ millions of out of work Americans. These two programs directed thousands of Americans to work on various projects, including those that improved habitat and built the infrastructure of more than 50 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. Then, in 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, popularly known as the “Duck Stamp Act,” was passed by Congress. The act required the purchase of a stamp by waterfowl hunters. Revenue generated by the stamp was used to acquire important wetlands. That same year, Jay Norwood (“Ding”) Darling was appointed chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey. Darling did not serve long at the bureau, but during his brief tenure he implemented an ambitious course for the agency to acquire and protect vital wetlands and other habitat throughout the country.
 
In 1937, Congress adopted the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act) to provide funding for the selection and improvement of wildlife habitat, improving wildlife management research and distributing information. Two years later, the bureaus of Fisheries and Biological Survey were moved to the Department of the Interior, and in 1940, the two were combined to create the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
 
Later that decade, the new Fish and Wildlife Service began to embark on critical programs that had long-lasting effects on the protection of species. In 1946, FWS established a River Basins Study program to help minimize and prevent damage to fish and wildlife resulting from federal water projects. The following year the agency established a program recognizing North America’s four migratory bird flyways in an effort to improve the management of migratory waterfowl hunting.
 
During the 1950s and 1960s, the service created a program for restoring and improving the country’s fishery resources, and it formed two new bureaus: Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. More importantly, the first piece of comprehensive legislation addressing the management of refuges, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, was passed in 1966. The act provided new guidance for administering the system and required that proposed uses on refuges must be “compatible” with refuge purposes.
 
Despite its work to help preserve fisheries, FWS lost control of this function in 1970 when its Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Commerce and renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service. FWS would go on to have an important working relationship with the National Marine Fisheries Service, for in 1973, Congress passed the landmark Endangered Species Act. Built upon legislation passed in 1966 and 1969, ESA expanded and strengthened efforts to protect species domestically and internationally. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service assumed responsibility for administering the act.
 
By the 1980s, FWS and the nation gained an important new addition to its ecological preservation efforts when Congress approved the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which dramatically expanded the size of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The act added nine new refuges, expanded seven existing refuges, added more than 53 million acres of land and designated numerous wilderness areas. The National Wildlife Refuge System was bolstered in 1997 with the passage of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which amended the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 and strengthened the mission of the refuge system, clarified the compatibility standard for public uses of refuges and required the completion of comprehensive plans for every refuge.

At the Forefront of Conservation: A Collection of FWS History

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What it Does:
One of the oldest and most important environmental agencies in the federal government, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is responsible for protecting endangered species. FWS also carries out a wide range of activities and programs designed to protect non-threatened species and habitats that support all kinds of animals, fish and plant life. Agency programs range from preserving coastal ecosystems to conducting the Duck Stamp contest each.
 
The departments, offices and programs under Fish and Wildlife are:
Division of Bird Habitat Conservation supports partnerships that deliver national and international management plans that conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The division includes the North American Waterfowl Management Program, which is international in scope but its implementation functions at the regional level. The waterfowl program relies on joint ventures involving federal, state, provincial, tribal and local governments plus businesses, conservation organizations and individual citizens. Joint ventures develop implementation plans focusing on areas of concern.
-        US Shorebird Conservation Plan involves partners from state and federal agencies, joint ventures and non-governmental organizations that pool their resources and expertise to develop a conservation strategy for migratory shorebirds and their habitats. The Shorebird Conservation Plan provides a scientific framework to determine species, sites and habitats that most urgently need conservation action. The goals of the plan, completed in 2000, are to ensure that an adequate quantity and quality of shorebird habitat is maintained at local levels. These national assessments were used to step down goals and objectives into 11 regional conservation plans. Plan partners are working with joint ventures to accomplish these goals.
-        North American Waterbird Conservation Plan focuses on waterbirds across the continent. Primary attention is provided to species that are not currently addressed by other conservation initiatives, including grebes, rails, seabirds, terns and herons.
-        The Federal Duck Stamp Program is one of FWS’s oldest and most cherished programs. “Duck Stamps” are pictorial stamps produced by the Postal Service for the Fish & Wildlife Service that help finance conservation efforts. Originally created in 1934 as the federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps help pay for wetlands conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. In addition to serving as a hunting license and a conservation tool, a Federal Duck Stamp serves as an entrance pass for National Wildlife Refuges where admission is normally charged. The program also runs an annual contest, where artists can submit their suggestions for new duck stamp renditions.
-        Partners in Flight develops songbird conservation priorities and habitat conservation plans for such birds. The program provides a scientific and planning base that contributes to ranking and developing habitat priorities.
-        North American Bird Conservation Initiative promotes and advances integrated bird conservation by providing online information resources to interested parties and individuals.
 
Endangered Species Program covers one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s most vital areas of operation. Enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (PDF) falls largely on the shoulders of FWS, which operates myriad sub-departments and programs to carry out this responsibility, including:          
-        Habitat Conservation Planning (HCPs) with landowners to integrate development activities with endangered species conservation.
-        International Agreements to protect species that migrate or range across North America and to regulate trade in endangered species.
-        Listing Program to place species on the list of threatened and endangered species.
-        Publications and fact sheets that explain the variety of tools used to help species on the road to recovery.
-        Recovery & Delisting activities to implement the goal of the Endangered Species Act, as well as recover listed species to levels where protection under ESA is no longer necessary.
-        Recovery Plans to detail the specific tasks needed to recover listed species.
-        Section 7 Consultation & Handbook directs all federal agencies to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and, in consultation with FWS, to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.
-        Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants provides details about those species covered under ESA, along with links to regulatory profiles and sites for learning more about a species. It also includes lists sorted by species group, country, state, FWS region and country, as well as proposed and candidate species and species that have been delisted, species with critical habitat and species with recovery plans and maps.
-        Work with Landowners to help them conserve endangered species on their lands, including providing financial grants and other assistance.
-        Kids Corner to help students and teachers find information on endangered and threatened species geared for them.
-        Work with Partners, such as state agencies and other organizations to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species, including providing financial grants and other assistance.
-        General statistics to answer questions such as how many species are listed, how many candidate species there are and how many habitat conservation plans exist, among others.
 
Office of Law Enforcement contributes to service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species and promote international wildlife conservation.
Service law enforcement focuses on potential threats to wildlife resource such as illegal trade, unlawful commercial exploitation, habitat destruction and environmental contaminants. The Office of Law Enforcement investigates wildlife crimes, regulates wildlife trade, helps Americans understand and obey wildlife protections laws and works in partnership with international, state and tribal counterparts to conserve wildlife resources. The office provides information on for importers and exporters, hunting and fishing, travelers and Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
 
Coastal Program incorporates a comprehensive view of coastal ecosystems to support the overall work of FWS to protect critical habitats and species. The program identifies important natural resource problems and solutions, influences the planning and decision-making processes of other agencies and organizations with the service’s living resource capabilities, implements solutions on-the-ground in partnership with others; instills a stewardship ethic and pushes the public to help solve problems, change behaviors and promote ecologically sound decisions. The Coastal Grant Program provides funding to states to help them preserve their coastal ecosystems. FWS’s role in the Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS) is to serve as a repository for coastal barrier resource maps. The service also advises federal agencies, landowners and Congress regarding whether properties are in or out of the CBRS and what kind of federal expenditures are allowed in the CBRS.
 
Division of Habitat and Resource Conservation provides national oversight for numerous FWS programs that promote the protection, conservation and restoration of fish and wildlife resources. The activities implemented under these programs focus on maintaining quality of fish and wildlife habitats. The division’s involvement includes providing expert habitat conservation planning and ecological technical assistance, working to conserve coastal habitats that have been nationally recognized as highly threatened, mapping, inventorying and monitoring the nation’s wetlands and addressing the service’s ecological data needs through the formulation of resource data bases.
 
Partners Program works with scientists, private landowners, businesses, NGO and non-profits, tribes, schools to disseminate public knowledge and increase awareness. Included is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program which provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and tribes who are willing to work with FWS and other partners on a voluntary basis to help meet the habitat needs of federal trust species.
 
Environmental Quality addresses pollution problems in fish and wildlife that could signal larger pollution problems that might affect humans. This division examines amphibians, endocrine disruptors, invasive species, oil spills, pest management, pesticides, pollinators and water quality. It carries out work in contaminants prevention, identification and assessment plus cleanup and resource restoration.
 

International Affairs

works multilaterally with many partners and nations in the implementation of international treaties, conventions and on-the-ground projects for conservation of species and the habitats on which they depend. This section of FWS operates three subdivisions:

International Conservation

;

Management Authority

; and

Scientific Authority

.

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Where Does the Money Go:
As part of its mission to help preserve endangered species, their habitats and other natural areas, FWS distributes different kinds of federal grants to state and local governments. In May 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service awarded state and territorial wildlife agencies more than $60 million to help conserve and recover imperiled wildlife through the State Wildlife Grant Program.
 
In January 2008, FWS announced the release of $20.5 million in National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants to fund 29 conservation projects encompassing nearly 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands. The grants are used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and habitat. States receiving the funds included California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts, along with Puerto Rico.
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service also gave out more than $13.6 million in grants to 27 states under the Clean Vessel Act grant program in April 2008. The grants help fund the construction and installation of sewage pumpout facilities and floating restrooms and to purchase pumpout boats and for educational programs for recreational boaters. Recipients of the Clean Vessel Act grants were:
-        Alabama Department of Environmental Management, $294,945
-        Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, $199,150
-        California Department of Boating and Waterways, $2,230,500
-        Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, $977,520
-        Florida Department of Environmental Protection, $3,540,848
-        Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, $74,070
-        Illinois Department of Natural Resources, $100,000
-        Indiana Department of Environmental Management, $177,444
-        Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, $164,958
-        Maryland Department of Natural Resources, $654,000
-        Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, $310,811
-        Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, $149,034
-        Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, $174,000
-        Missouri Department of Conservation, $48,000
-        New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, $170,200
-        New York Department of Environmental Conservation, $1,227,100
-        North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, $251,440
-        North Dakota Game and Fish Department, $10,376
-        Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft, $260,325
-        Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, $163,450
-        Oregon State Marine Board, $1,111,650
-        South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, $34,707
-        Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, $600,000
-        Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, $356,250
-        Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, $25,442
-        Washington State Parks and Recreation Department, $220,000
-        Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, $105,000
 
In addition to distributing grants, FWS spends considerable amounts of money on contractors. From 2000-20008 the service allocated $1.76 billion among more than 28,000 contractors, according to USAspending.gov. The largest expenditures went to pay for construction and maintenance of facilities.
 
The top 10 recipients among contractors were:
Chugach Alaska Corp.
$64,848,201
Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc.
$61,828,818
Bluescope Steel Ltd.
$34,174,243
Industrial Economics Inc.
$23,036,000
U.S. Government
$19,522,678
Domus Holdings Corp.
$19,464,912
Caterpillar Inc.
$19,464,891
Prudential Financial, Inc.
$18,851,003
Paxton Van Lines Inc.
$18,112,246
Dell Inc.
$16,796,832
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Controversies:
FWS Scientists Stifled on Polar Bears
In 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service prevented two Alaska scientists from speaking about polar bears, climate change or sea ice at international meetings. The controversial move came at a time when the federal government was proposing listing the polar bear as a threatened species.
 
A former high-level Interior Department official in Anchorage called the effort by FWS a “gag order” designed to make the subjects of polar bears, climate change and sea ice off limits to all scientists who hadn't been cleared to speak on the topics.
 
Bush Administration Manipulates Data on Endangered Species
The Union of Concerned Scientists reported in 2006 that high-ranking political appointees within the Department of the Interior had rewritten scientific documents to prevent the protection of several threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald - an engineer with no training in biology - personally reversed scientific findings, changed scientific conclusions to prevent endangered species from receiving protection, removed relevant information from a scientific document and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to adopt her edits.
 
Affected species included the greater sage grouse, the Gunnison sage grouse, the white-tailed prairie dog, the Gunnison's prairie dog, a fish known as the roundtail chub and a tree found in the Mariana Islands.
 
In a survey of FWS scientists published the previous year, 84 scientists reported having been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from FWS scientific documents. Furthermore, 303 scientists, or two thirds of those who responded to the survey, knew of cases where Interior Department political appointees had interfered with scientific determinations.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey Summary (Union of Concerned Scientists)
 
Border Fence Threatens Endangered Species
The Fish and Wildlife Service in January 2008 outraged environmentalists when it announced that it would not produce a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar and not attempt to recover the species in the United States. The reason: Issuing a recovery plan for the largest cat in North America would interfere with the Bush administration’s plan to build a fence along the US-Mexico border as part of its immigration policy.
 
In response to the decision by FWS, Defenders of Wildlife sued the service and several ranking officials.
 
The American jaguar at one time roamed from Monterey Bay to the Appalachian Mountains and from the Grand Canyon to well into Central and South America.
For decades, the big cats have hardly been seen in the US, with rare sightings in Southern Arizona and New Mexico. This scarcity is one of the reasons Fish and Wildlife called the American jaguar a “foreign” species that could not be recovered in the US.

Fish & Wildlife is sued to gain jaguar protection: S. Ariz., N.M. called crucial habitat areas (by Josh Brodesky, Arizona Daily Star)

 

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Former Directors:

Former Directors

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Comments

Cheryl Erland 5 months ago
If you remove grey wolves from the endangered species list now - just as they are beginning to regain a foothold within North America, you are making a grievous mistake - one with far reaching consequences. Who, currently working within this department, wants to explain to their children and grandchildren why there are only pictures of grey wolves left? That the animals themselves have been wiped off the continent under YOUR WATCH? That you could have made different choices; choices which would have resulted in them still being alive and thriving? Those of you in the position to keep wolves on the endangered species list until it really IS safe to do otherwise, have been charged with no small power. Please, please wield it wisely.
Sandra VanDeHey 6 months ago
I would like to know the budget figures for the state of Colorado either in allocations or grants?
Glenna K Wyeth 1 year ago
This is for Mr Ashe, Please don't take the gray wolves off the endangered species. Look At how our Utah "kill crazy lawmakers managed the coyotes here" a big bounty and kill every one of them. Don't leave a pup alive. Don't care how you kill them smoke them out,snare, poison I don't care. Ut wild horses are shipped to Mexico by semi for slaughter. All for the ranchers to have all the land.Wonder what they can wipe out after that. I know that sometimes a preditor species have to be thinned not every one of them slaughtered. Pease give very careful on the decision you make. Our wildlife...All of it has the right to survive. Thank you for your time and I hope the wolves will stay on the endangered list. Do you have a e-mail I know others that would also like to get in touch with you. Glenna Wyeth
Elaina 1 year ago
Does this agency share any responsibilities with any other agencies?
Helen towler 2 years ago
could you even attempt to make this user friendly? but i want to understand why you are allowing the gray wolf to be targeted for extinction again? if the democrats cant be trusted with this then we really might as well re-elect the gestapo again
Matt Marin 2 years ago
can anyone provide information (law/code number) of a us f&w regulation that prohibits states from charging fees for entering wildlife areas? the law supposedly is enforced by disqualifying a state that charges from receiving the federal grants. thanks,
brady 2 years ago
you people at the fish and wildlife service are jackbooted gestapo thugs. what you have done to gibson guitar is tyranny!

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Founded: 1940
Annual Budget: $1.3 billion
Employees: 8,806
Official Website: http://www.fws.gov/
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ashe, Daniel
Director

Daniel M. Ashe was nominated as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Dec. 3, 2010. However, Louisiana’s two senators, Republican David Vitter and Democrat Mary Landrieu, have placed a hold on his confirmation to try to force the Department of the Interior to issue deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

 
Ashe’s father, William C. Ashe of Harvard, Massachusetts, is a former Wildlife Service deputy regional director who retired in 1990 after 37 years with the Wildlife Service.
 
Born in Atlanta, Ashe received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a Masters of Marine Affairs from the Institute of Marine Affairs (currently the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs) at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1982. His master’s thesis was on wetland mitigation in estuarine ecosystems.
 
Ashe traveled to Washington, D.C., on a 1982 National Sea Grant Congressional Fellowship. From 1982 to 1995, he worked with the House of Representatives as a staff member of the former Merchant Marines and Fisheries Committee, advising its members on environmental policy matters. Eventually he rose to the post of Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Environment and Natural Resources.
 
From 1995 to 1998, he served as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Assistant Director for External Affairs. In this position he managed the Service's Congressional and public affairs, Native American and research coordination programs, the Federal Duck Stamp Program, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs. In 1997, he was Service’s lead negotiator leading to the passage if the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.
 
From May 1998 to 2003, he was chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which entailed his overseeing all management of the 93-million-acre system.
 
In March 2003, Ashe was appointed Science Advisor to the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, advising the director on scientific applications to resource management. He held the post for six years until he was chosen to be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Deputy Director for Policy in August 2009.
 
Ashe and his wife have two children
           
 
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Hamilton, Sam
Previous Director

A biologist and career employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Samuel D. Hamilton was confirmed by the Senate as director  of the agency on July 31, 2009, and served until his death at age 54 from a heart attack while skiing in Colorado February 20, 2010.

 
A native of Starkville, Mississippi, Hamilton was the son of Mary L. Hamilton and Lt. Col. Sam D. Hamilton. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
 
His environmental career began in the Youth Conservation Corps at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, before joining FWS.
 
His first seven years working for FWS were in Mississippi and Alabama. He then relocated to Washington, DC, to work as special assistant to the FWS’s director and deputy director. His time in DC also included working in the Division of Habitat Conservation, and completing a detail on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee in the House of Representatives.
 
Hamilton then moved to Austin, Texas, to serve as FWS’s Texas State Administrator responsible for overseeing implementation of the Endangered Species Act and other environmental statutes. From there it was on to Atlanta, Georgia, serving a stint as Assistant Regional Director-Ecological Services for FWS. He oversaw the management of the region’s 16 ecological services field offices. The Ecological Services Program is responsible for implementation of the Endangered Species Act and FWS activities associated with the Clean Water Act, wetland and coastal programs, federal water resource development programs, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program and the environmental contaminants program.
 
A promotion made Hamilton the Geographical Assistant Regional Director for Area II, a senior policy advisor to the regional director on endangered species, wetlands conservation and habitat restoration. In this capacity he helped lead programs dealing with conservation biology and natural resource management throughout Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. He also oversaw the management of 34 national wildlife refuges, five national fish hatcheries, and six ecological services field offices in these states.
 
In 1997, he became FWS’s regional director for the Southeast Region, putting him in charge of all agency programs for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also oversaw the management of 125 national wildlife refuges covering more than 3.5 million acres, 14 national fish hatcheries, five fishery assistance offices, and 16 ecological services field offices. He also managed FWS’s role in the restoration of the South Florida ecosystem, including the Everglades, and also was responsible for an increasing number of habitat conservation plans in the Southeast.
 
Sam D. Hamilton Biography (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast) (pdf)
Fish & Wildlife Service In Florida: Portrait Of A Failed Agency (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:
Part of the Department of the Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) serves as one of the most important federal agencies in the effort to protect endangered species and preserve habitats. FWS oversees a significant number of programs that seek to ensure the viability of coastal ecosystems, bird habitats and migratory routes, and freshwater and saltwater bodies of water for fish species. Along with the National Marine Fisheries Service, FWS is charged with implementing the Endangered Species Act. For much of its history, the agency has been a respected steward of the environment. However, under the leadership of appointees of President George W. Bush, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been routinely criticized by scientists and environmentalists for short-cutting important efforts to protect species threatened with extinction.
 
more
History:
In 1871, Congress created the US Commission on Fish and Fisheries, which was charged with studying and recommending solutions to halting the decline in some fish species harvested for food. Additional efforts to study wildlife biology were implemented by the Department of Agriculture in 1885 when it established the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy. Much of the division’s early work focused on studying the positive effects of birds in controlling agricultural pests and defining the geographical distribution of animals and plants throughout the country. The division later was expanded and renamed the Bureau of Biological Survey.
 
By the turn of the 20th Century, concerns over ecology and natural preservation began to take root in the American consciousness, thanks in part to President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1900, Congress adopted the Lacey Act, which became the first federal law protecting game, prohibiting the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife and importation of species. The Bureau of Biological Survey was responsible for enforcing the act. Three years later, the first Federal Bird Reservation was established by President Roosevelt on Pelican Island, Florida, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Biological Survey. Pelican Island and other early Federal wildlife reservations were later re-designated as “national wildlife refuges” in 1942.
 
In 1918, lawmakers passed a landmark piece of legislation with the adoption of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which implemented the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds that provided for the regulation of migratory bird hunting.
 
The 1930s proved to be a seminal time for the conservation and wildlife preservation movements. Thanks to the Depression, the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration to help employ millions of out of work Americans. These two programs directed thousands of Americans to work on various projects, including those that improved habitat and built the infrastructure of more than 50 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. Then, in 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, popularly known as the “Duck Stamp Act,” was passed by Congress. The act required the purchase of a stamp by waterfowl hunters. Revenue generated by the stamp was used to acquire important wetlands. That same year, Jay Norwood (“Ding”) Darling was appointed chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey. Darling did not serve long at the bureau, but during his brief tenure he implemented an ambitious course for the agency to acquire and protect vital wetlands and other habitat throughout the country.
 
In 1937, Congress adopted the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act) to provide funding for the selection and improvement of wildlife habitat, improving wildlife management research and distributing information. Two years later, the bureaus of Fisheries and Biological Survey were moved to the Department of the Interior, and in 1940, the two were combined to create the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
 
Later that decade, the new Fish and Wildlife Service began to embark on critical programs that had long-lasting effects on the protection of species. In 1946, FWS established a River Basins Study program to help minimize and prevent damage to fish and wildlife resulting from federal water projects. The following year the agency established a program recognizing North America’s four migratory bird flyways in an effort to improve the management of migratory waterfowl hunting.
 
During the 1950s and 1960s, the service created a program for restoring and improving the country’s fishery resources, and it formed two new bureaus: Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. More importantly, the first piece of comprehensive legislation addressing the management of refuges, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, was passed in 1966. The act provided new guidance for administering the system and required that proposed uses on refuges must be “compatible” with refuge purposes.
 
Despite its work to help preserve fisheries, FWS lost control of this function in 1970 when its Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred to the Department of Commerce and renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service. FWS would go on to have an important working relationship with the National Marine Fisheries Service, for in 1973, Congress passed the landmark Endangered Species Act. Built upon legislation passed in 1966 and 1969, ESA expanded and strengthened efforts to protect species domestically and internationally. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service assumed responsibility for administering the act.
 
By the 1980s, FWS and the nation gained an important new addition to its ecological preservation efforts when Congress approved the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which dramatically expanded the size of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The act added nine new refuges, expanded seven existing refuges, added more than 53 million acres of land and designated numerous wilderness areas. The National Wildlife Refuge System was bolstered in 1997 with the passage of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which amended the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 and strengthened the mission of the refuge system, clarified the compatibility standard for public uses of refuges and required the completion of comprehensive plans for every refuge.

At the Forefront of Conservation: A Collection of FWS History

more
What it Does:
One of the oldest and most important environmental agencies in the federal government, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is responsible for protecting endangered species. FWS also carries out a wide range of activities and programs designed to protect non-threatened species and habitats that support all kinds of animals, fish and plant life. Agency programs range from preserving coastal ecosystems to conducting the Duck Stamp contest each.
 
The departments, offices and programs under Fish and Wildlife are:
Division of Bird Habitat Conservation supports partnerships that deliver national and international management plans that conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The division includes the North American Waterfowl Management Program, which is international in scope but its implementation functions at the regional level. The waterfowl program relies on joint ventures involving federal, state, provincial, tribal and local governments plus businesses, conservation organizations and individual citizens. Joint ventures develop implementation plans focusing on areas of concern.
-        US Shorebird Conservation Plan involves partners from state and federal agencies, joint ventures and non-governmental organizations that pool their resources and expertise to develop a conservation strategy for migratory shorebirds and their habitats. The Shorebird Conservation Plan provides a scientific framework to determine species, sites and habitats that most urgently need conservation action. The goals of the plan, completed in 2000, are to ensure that an adequate quantity and quality of shorebird habitat is maintained at local levels. These national assessments were used to step down goals and objectives into 11 regional conservation plans. Plan partners are working with joint ventures to accomplish these goals.
-        North American Waterbird Conservation Plan focuses on waterbirds across the continent. Primary attention is provided to species that are not currently addressed by other conservation initiatives, including grebes, rails, seabirds, terns and herons.
-        The Federal Duck Stamp Program is one of FWS’s oldest and most cherished programs. “Duck Stamps” are pictorial stamps produced by the Postal Service for the Fish & Wildlife Service that help finance conservation efforts. Originally created in 1934 as the federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps help pay for wetlands conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. In addition to serving as a hunting license and a conservation tool, a Federal Duck Stamp serves as an entrance pass for National Wildlife Refuges where admission is normally charged. The program also runs an annual contest, where artists can submit their suggestions for new duck stamp renditions.
-        Partners in Flight develops songbird conservation priorities and habitat conservation plans for such birds. The program provides a scientific and planning base that contributes to ranking and developing habitat priorities.
-        North American Bird Conservation Initiative promotes and advances integrated bird conservation by providing online information resources to interested parties and individuals.
 
Endangered Species Program covers one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s most vital areas of operation. Enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (PDF) falls largely on the shoulders of FWS, which operates myriad sub-departments and programs to carry out this responsibility, including:          
-        Habitat Conservation Planning (HCPs) with landowners to integrate development activities with endangered species conservation.
-        International Agreements to protect species that migrate or range across North America and to regulate trade in endangered species.
-        Listing Program to place species on the list of threatened and endangered species.
-        Publications and fact sheets that explain the variety of tools used to help species on the road to recovery.
-        Recovery & Delisting activities to implement the goal of the Endangered Species Act, as well as recover listed species to levels where protection under ESA is no longer necessary.
-        Recovery Plans to detail the specific tasks needed to recover listed species.
-        Section 7 Consultation & Handbook directs all federal agencies to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and, in consultation with FWS, to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.
-        Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants provides details about those species covered under ESA, along with links to regulatory profiles and sites for learning more about a species. It also includes lists sorted by species group, country, state, FWS region and country, as well as proposed and candidate species and species that have been delisted, species with critical habitat and species with recovery plans and maps.
-        Work with Landowners to help them conserve endangered species on their lands, including providing financial grants and other assistance.
-        Kids Corner to help students and teachers find information on endangered and threatened species geared for them.
-        Work with Partners, such as state agencies and other organizations to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species, including providing financial grants and other assistance.
-        General statistics to answer questions such as how many species are listed, how many candidate species there are and how many habitat conservation plans exist, among others.
 
Office of Law Enforcement contributes to service efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species and promote international wildlife conservation.
Service law enforcement focuses on potential threats to wildlife resource such as illegal trade, unlawful commercial exploitation, habitat destruction and environmental contaminants. The Office of Law Enforcement investigates wildlife crimes, regulates wildlife trade, helps Americans understand and obey wildlife protections laws and works in partnership with international, state and tribal counterparts to conserve wildlife resources. The office provides information on for importers and exporters, hunting and fishing, travelers and Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
 
Coastal Program incorporates a comprehensive view of coastal ecosystems to support the overall work of FWS to protect critical habitats and species. The program identifies important natural resource problems and solutions, influences the planning and decision-making processes of other agencies and organizations with the service’s living resource capabilities, implements solutions on-the-ground in partnership with others; instills a stewardship ethic and pushes the public to help solve problems, change behaviors and promote ecologically sound decisions. The Coastal Grant Program provides funding to states to help them preserve their coastal ecosystems. FWS’s role in the Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS) is to serve as a repository for coastal barrier resource maps. The service also advises federal agencies, landowners and Congress regarding whether properties are in or out of the CBRS and what kind of federal expenditures are allowed in the CBRS.
 
Division of Habitat and Resource Conservation provides national oversight for numerous FWS programs that promote the protection, conservation and restoration of fish and wildlife resources. The activities implemented under these programs focus on maintaining quality of fish and wildlife habitats. The division’s involvement includes providing expert habitat conservation planning and ecological technical assistance, working to conserve coastal habitats that have been nationally recognized as highly threatened, mapping, inventorying and monitoring the nation’s wetlands and addressing the service’s ecological data needs through the formulation of resource data bases.
 
Partners Program works with scientists, private landowners, businesses, NGO and non-profits, tribes, schools to disseminate public knowledge and increase awareness. Included is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program which provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and tribes who are willing to work with FWS and other partners on a voluntary basis to help meet the habitat needs of federal trust species.
 
Environmental Quality addresses pollution problems in fish and wildlife that could signal larger pollution problems that might affect humans. This division examines amphibians, endocrine disruptors, invasive species, oil spills, pest management, pesticides, pollinators and water quality. It carries out work in contaminants prevention, identification and assessment plus cleanup and resource restoration.
 

International Affairs

works multilaterally with many partners and nations in the implementation of international treaties, conventions and on-the-ground projects for conservation of species and the habitats on which they depend. This section of FWS operates three subdivisions:

International Conservation

;

Management Authority

; and

Scientific Authority

.

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Where Does the Money Go:
As part of its mission to help preserve endangered species, their habitats and other natural areas, FWS distributes different kinds of federal grants to state and local governments. In May 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service awarded state and territorial wildlife agencies more than $60 million to help conserve and recover imperiled wildlife through the State Wildlife Grant Program.
 
In January 2008, FWS announced the release of $20.5 million in National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants to fund 29 conservation projects encompassing nearly 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands. The grants are used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and habitat. States receiving the funds included California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts, along with Puerto Rico.
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service also gave out more than $13.6 million in grants to 27 states under the Clean Vessel Act grant program in April 2008. The grants help fund the construction and installation of sewage pumpout facilities and floating restrooms and to purchase pumpout boats and for educational programs for recreational boaters. Recipients of the Clean Vessel Act grants were:
-        Alabama Department of Environmental Management, $294,945
-        Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, $199,150
-        California Department of Boating and Waterways, $2,230,500
-        Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, $977,520
-        Florida Department of Environmental Protection, $3,540,848
-        Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, $74,070
-        Illinois Department of Natural Resources, $100,000
-        Indiana Department of Environmental Management, $177,444
-        Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, $164,958
-        Maryland Department of Natural Resources, $654,000
-        Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, $310,811
-        Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, $149,034
-        Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, $174,000
-        Missouri Department of Conservation, $48,000
-        New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, $170,200
-        New York Department of Environmental Conservation, $1,227,100
-        North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, $251,440
-        North Dakota Game and Fish Department, $10,376
-        Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft, $260,325
-        Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, $163,450
-        Oregon State Marine Board, $1,111,650
-        South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, $34,707
-        Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, $600,000
-        Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, $356,250
-        Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, $25,442
-        Washington State Parks and Recreation Department, $220,000
-        Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, $105,000
 
In addition to distributing grants, FWS spends considerable amounts of money on contractors. From 2000-20008 the service allocated $1.76 billion among more than 28,000 contractors, according to USAspending.gov. The largest expenditures went to pay for construction and maintenance of facilities.
 
The top 10 recipients among contractors were:
Chugach Alaska Corp.
$64,848,201
Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc.
$61,828,818
Bluescope Steel Ltd.
$34,174,243
Industrial Economics Inc.
$23,036,000
U.S. Government
$19,522,678
Domus Holdings Corp.
$19,464,912
Caterpillar Inc.
$19,464,891
Prudential Financial, Inc.
$18,851,003
Paxton Van Lines Inc.
$18,112,246
Dell Inc.
$16,796,832
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Controversies:
FWS Scientists Stifled on Polar Bears
In 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service prevented two Alaska scientists from speaking about polar bears, climate change or sea ice at international meetings. The controversial move came at a time when the federal government was proposing listing the polar bear as a threatened species.
 
A former high-level Interior Department official in Anchorage called the effort by FWS a “gag order” designed to make the subjects of polar bears, climate change and sea ice off limits to all scientists who hadn't been cleared to speak on the topics.
 
Bush Administration Manipulates Data on Endangered Species
The Union of Concerned Scientists reported in 2006 that high-ranking political appointees within the Department of the Interior had rewritten scientific documents to prevent the protection of several threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald - an engineer with no training in biology - personally reversed scientific findings, changed scientific conclusions to prevent endangered species from receiving protection, removed relevant information from a scientific document and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to adopt her edits.
 
Affected species included the greater sage grouse, the Gunnison sage grouse, the white-tailed prairie dog, the Gunnison's prairie dog, a fish known as the roundtail chub and a tree found in the Mariana Islands.
 
In a survey of FWS scientists published the previous year, 84 scientists reported having been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from FWS scientific documents. Furthermore, 303 scientists, or two thirds of those who responded to the survey, knew of cases where Interior Department political appointees had interfered with scientific determinations.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey Summary (Union of Concerned Scientists)
 
Border Fence Threatens Endangered Species
The Fish and Wildlife Service in January 2008 outraged environmentalists when it announced that it would not produce a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar and not attempt to recover the species in the United States. The reason: Issuing a recovery plan for the largest cat in North America would interfere with the Bush administration’s plan to build a fence along the US-Mexico border as part of its immigration policy.
 
In response to the decision by FWS, Defenders of Wildlife sued the service and several ranking officials.
 
The American jaguar at one time roamed from Monterey Bay to the Appalachian Mountains and from the Grand Canyon to well into Central and South America.
For decades, the big cats have hardly been seen in the US, with rare sightings in Southern Arizona and New Mexico. This scarcity is one of the reasons Fish and Wildlife called the American jaguar a “foreign” species that could not be recovered in the US.

Fish & Wildlife is sued to gain jaguar protection: S. Ariz., N.M. called crucial habitat areas (by Josh Brodesky, Arizona Daily Star)

 

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Former Directors:

Former Directors

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Comments

Cheryl Erland 5 months ago
If you remove grey wolves from the endangered species list now - just as they are beginning to regain a foothold within North America, you are making a grievous mistake - one with far reaching consequences. Who, currently working within this department, wants to explain to their children and grandchildren why there are only pictures of grey wolves left? That the animals themselves have been wiped off the continent under YOUR WATCH? That you could have made different choices; choices which would have resulted in them still being alive and thriving? Those of you in the position to keep wolves on the endangered species list until it really IS safe to do otherwise, have been charged with no small power. Please, please wield it wisely.
Sandra VanDeHey 6 months ago
I would like to know the budget figures for the state of Colorado either in allocations or grants?
Glenna K Wyeth 1 year ago
This is for Mr Ashe, Please don't take the gray wolves off the endangered species. Look At how our Utah "kill crazy lawmakers managed the coyotes here" a big bounty and kill every one of them. Don't leave a pup alive. Don't care how you kill them smoke them out,snare, poison I don't care. Ut wild horses are shipped to Mexico by semi for slaughter. All for the ranchers to have all the land.Wonder what they can wipe out after that. I know that sometimes a preditor species have to be thinned not every one of them slaughtered. Pease give very careful on the decision you make. Our wildlife...All of it has the right to survive. Thank you for your time and I hope the wolves will stay on the endangered list. Do you have a e-mail I know others that would also like to get in touch with you. Glenna Wyeth
Elaina 1 year ago
Does this agency share any responsibilities with any other agencies?
Helen towler 2 years ago
could you even attempt to make this user friendly? but i want to understand why you are allowing the gray wolf to be targeted for extinction again? if the democrats cant be trusted with this then we really might as well re-elect the gestapo again
Matt Marin 2 years ago
can anyone provide information (law/code number) of a us f&w regulation that prohibits states from charging fees for entering wildlife areas? the law supposedly is enforced by disqualifying a state that charges from receiving the federal grants. thanks,
brady 2 years ago
you people at the fish and wildlife service are jackbooted gestapo thugs. what you have done to gibson guitar is tyranny!

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Founded: 1940
Annual Budget: $1.3 billion
Employees: 8,806
Official Website: http://www.fws.gov/
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ashe, Daniel
Director

Daniel M. Ashe was nominated as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Dec. 3, 2010. However, Louisiana’s two senators, Republican David Vitter and Democrat Mary Landrieu, have placed a hold on his confirmation to try to force the Department of the Interior to issue deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

 
Ashe’s father, William C. Ashe of Harvard, Massachusetts, is a former Wildlife Service deputy regional director who retired in 1990 after 37 years with the Wildlife Service.
 
Born in Atlanta, Ashe received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a Masters of Marine Affairs from the Institute of Marine Affairs (currently the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs) at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1982. His master’s thesis was on wetland mitigation in estuarine ecosystems.
 
Ashe traveled to Washington, D.C., on a 1982 National Sea Grant Congressional Fellowship. From 1982 to 1995, he worked with the House of Representatives as a staff member of the former Merchant Marines and Fisheries Committee, advising its members on environmental policy matters. Eventually he rose to the post of Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Environment and Natural Resources.
 
From 1995 to 1998, he served as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Assistant Director for External Affairs. In this position he managed the Service's Congressional and public affairs, Native American and research coordination programs, the Federal Duck Stamp Program, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs. In 1997, he was Service’s lead negotiator leading to the passage if the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.
 
From May 1998 to 2003, he was chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which entailed his overseeing all management of the 93-million-acre system.
 
In March 2003, Ashe was appointed Science Advisor to the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, advising the director on scientific applications to resource management. He held the post for six years until he was chosen to be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Deputy Director for Policy in August 2009.
 
Ashe and his wife have two children
           
 
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Hamilton, Sam
Previous Director

A biologist and career employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Samuel D. Hamilton was confirmed by the Senate as director  of the agency on July 31, 2009, and served until his death at age 54 from a heart attack while skiing in Colorado February 20, 2010.

 
A native of Starkville, Mississippi, Hamilton was the son of Mary L. Hamilton and Lt. Col. Sam D. Hamilton. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
 
His environmental career began in the Youth Conservation Corps at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, before joining FWS.
 
His first seven years working for FWS were in Mississippi and Alabama. He then relocated to Washington, DC, to work as special assistant to the FWS’s director and deputy director. His time in DC also included working in the Division of Habitat Conservation, and completing a detail on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee in the House of Representatives.
 
Hamilton then moved to Austin, Texas, to serve as FWS’s Texas State Administrator responsible for overseeing implementation of the Endangered Species Act and other environmental statutes. From there it was on to Atlanta, Georgia, serving a stint as Assistant Regional Director-Ecological Services for FWS. He oversaw the management of the region’s 16 ecological services field offices. The Ecological Services Program is responsible for implementation of the Endangered Species Act and FWS activities associated with the Clean Water Act, wetland and coastal programs, federal water resource development programs, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program and the environmental contaminants program.
 
A promotion made Hamilton the Geographical Assistant Regional Director for Area II, a senior policy advisor to the regional director on endangered species, wetlands conservation and habitat restoration. In this capacity he helped lead programs dealing with conservation biology and natural resource management throughout Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. He also oversaw the management of 34 national wildlife refuges, five national fish hatcheries, and six ecological services field offices in these states.
 
In 1997, he became FWS’s regional director for the Southeast Region, putting him in charge of all agency programs for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also oversaw the management of 125 national wildlife refuges covering more than 3.5 million acres, 14 national fish hatcheries, five fishery assistance offices, and 16 ecological services field offices. He also managed FWS’s role in the restoration of the South Florida ecosystem, including the Everglades, and also was responsible for an increasing number of habitat conservation plans in the Southeast.
 
Sam D. Hamilton Biography (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast) (pdf)
Fish & Wildlife Service In Florida: Portrait Of A Failed Agency (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
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