United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

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A organizational summary by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.

This page is an introduction to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with specific emphasis on the Central Coast of California.

US Fish & Wildlife Service logo.[1]


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a United States federal scientific agency within the United States Department of the Interior. USFWS carries out a variety of duties that monitor, manage, and protect the nation's fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. In the California Central Coast Region, USFWS plays a large role in environmental management and regulation in conjunction with many cooperating institutions such as California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Invasive Plant Council, UC Santa Cruz, CalPoly SLO, and CSUMB.[1]


USFWS's service mission is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."[2] Their goal is to conserve natural ecosystems and resources for future generations through objective science-based management. USFWS has six major priorities: the National Wildlife Refuge System, landscape conservation, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, and connecting people with nature.[2]

Legal Status / Authority

USFWS was established by Congress via the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956. The act consolidated the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey within the United States Department of the Interior.[3]

USFWS holds many responsibilities related to the protection and conservation of inland fish, wildlife, and plants. Many of its functions involve acquiring, protecting, and managing ecosystems deemed necessary to sustain important fish and wildlife. USFWS operates a network of 567 National Wildlife Refuges nationwide. USFWS has primary responsibility for the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, and also promotes conservation of threatened species through their Migratory Bird program and Fish and Aquatic Conservation program.[4] USFWS protects species and their habitats with their Office of Law Enforcement, which helps prevent illegal wildlife trade and trafficking, habitat destruction, and environmental contamination. Special agents and wildlife inspectors enforce state, federal, and international wildlife regulations in cooperation with state and tribal organizations.[5]


USFWS governs the nation's ecosystems within the 12 DOI Interior Regions. These regions are based on watersheds in order to facilitate ecosystem management efficiency, and cover approximately 530 million acres of surface land.[6]

  • Region 1: North Atlantic-Appalachian
  • Region 2: South Atlantic-Gulf
  • Region 3: Great Lakes
  • Region 4: Mississippi Basin
  • Region 5: Missouri Basin ​
  • Region 6: Arkansas-Rio Grande-Texas-Gulf
  • Region 7: Upper Colorado Basin
  • Region 8: Lower Colorado Basin
  • Region 9: Columbia-Pacific Northwest
  • Region 10: California-Great Basin
  • Region 11: Alaska
  • Region 12: Pacific Islands

The national headquarters are located in Washington, D.C. and USFWS has many local offices in every US state and territory.[7] These state offices carry out National Wildlife Refuge System operations, host researchers, and house Office of Law Enforcement personnel.[8]

Although USFWS has a large amount of autonomy and many of its decisions are based on the scientific research and collaboration with other local managers, the presidentially-appointed US Secretary of the Interior has the ultimate authority over agency actions. As a statutory member of the presidential cabinet, the secretary reports directly to the president.

Organizational Structure

The USFWS agency executive is the director. The director is nominated by the President of the United States and then must be approved by the US Senate. The director and USFWS headquarters is primarily responsible for budget allocation and policy creation. Eight regional directors report to the agency director and oversee implementation of policies and field office program management.[9]

Major sub-units of the USFWS include:

Central Coast Context

Many local organizations coordinate with USFWS for environmental management in the Central Coast region. Big Sur Land Trust secured $14 million from USFWS and several state agencies for the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement (Carmel River FREE) Project. This project strives to restore floodplain habitat for many native species as well as reduce flooding of developed areas. USFWS has also designated critical habitat for California Tiger Salamander in California's Central Coast Region, and the Pacific Southwest Region office worked with state agencies to create a species recovery plan for CA tiger salamanders in 2017. Since 1992, USFWS has operated the California Condor Recovery Program, which breeds and reintroduces condors to the wild.[10] Because of its authority over the California Condor Recovery Program and its role in Central Coast conservation and management, USFWS is a potential partner for the Range of the Condor National Heritage Area, which would promote further environmental stewardship and outreach for the region.

USFWS is also responsible for approving Habitat Conservation Plans such as the Fort Ord Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and supplying permits for environmental management projects that involve terrestrial species covered by the Endangered Species Act.

USFWS manages the National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuges in or near California's Central Coast region include:

Related links


  1. Reference text http://www.cesu.psu.edu/unit_portals/CALI_portal.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 USFWS Fundamentals
  3. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/help/about_us.html
  4. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/policy/022fw1.html
  5. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/le/about-le.html
  6. Reference text https://www.doi.gov/employees/reorg/unified-regional-boundaries
  7. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html
  8. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/offices/Directory/ListOffices.cfm?statecode=6
  9. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/help/about_us.html
  10. Reference text https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/Condor.cfm


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.