Zinke reaffirms state primacy over wildlife management

By Laura Bies

©Larry Smith

In a Sept. 10 memo to Interior Department bureau and office heads, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reaffirmed “the authority of the State to exercise their broad trustee and police powers as stewards of the Nation’s fish and wildlife species on public lands and waters under the jurisdiction of the Department.”

Noting the states have fish and wildlife agencies specifically charged with exercising their responsibilities as trustees for fish and wildlife, Zinke asserted that these agencies have “consistently demonstrated their commitment to sustaining fish and wildlife resources in perpetuity.”

“The Department recognizes States as the first-line authorities for fish and wildlife management and hereby expresses its commitment to defer to the State in this regard except as otherwise required by Federal law,” he wrote.

The memo serves to reaffirm a policy set forth in 1983, which recognizes “the basic role of the States in fish and resident wildlife management, especially where States have primary authority and responsibility, and to foster improved conservation of fish and wildlife.”

In the memo, Zinke tasks Interior officials with developing a plan to better align the department’s policies regarding fish and wildlife management with those of the states. To do so, he asks all Interior bureaus and offices to, within 45 days, review their regulations, policies and guidance pertaining to fish and wildlife management and conservation on lands and waters under their jurisdiction that are more restrictive than the parallel state policies that would otherwise apply. Within 90 days, each bureau and office should prepare a report with recommendations on how to better align their policies with the state policies. The report will go to the deputy secretary, who will consult with the state fish and wildlife agencies on this matter and prepare the implementation plan, which must be submitted to Zinke within 120 days.

State primacy over fish and wildlife management is a key aspect of the Public Trust Doctrine, which forms part of the foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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