Text: H.R.1420 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)All Information (Except Text)

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Public Law No: 105-57 (10/09/1997)

 
[105th Congress Public Law 57]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]


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[DOCID: f:publ57.105]


[[Page 1251]]

         NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997

[[Page 111 STAT. 1252]]

Public Law 105-57
105th Congress

                                 An Act


 
To amend the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 
 to improve the management of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and 
       for other purposes. <<NOTE: Oct. 9, 1997 -  [H.R. 1420]>> 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in <<NOTE: National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997.>> Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; REFERENCES.

    (a) Short <<NOTE: 16 USC 668dd note.>>  Title.--This Act may be 
cited as the ``National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 
1997''.

    (b) References.--Whenever in this Act an amendment or repeal is 
expressed in terms of an amendment to, or repeal of, a section or other 
provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to a section or 
provision of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 
1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.).

SEC. 2. <<NOTE: 16 USC 668dd note.>>  FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds the following:
            (1) The National Wildlife Refuge System is comprised of over 
        92,000,000 acres of Federal lands that have been incorporated 
        within 509 individual units located in all 50 States and the 
        territories of the United States.
            (2) The System was created to conserve fish, wildlife, and 
        plants and their habitats and this conservation mission has been 
        facilitated by providing Americans opportunities to participate 
        in compatible wildlife-dependent recreation, including 
        fishing and hunting, on System lands and to better appreciate 
        the value of and need for fish and wildlife conservation.
            (3) The System serves a pivotal role in the conservation of 
        migratory birds, anadromous and interjurisdictional fish, marine 
        mammals, endangered and threatened species, and the habitats on 
        which these species depend.
            (4) The System assists in the fulfillment of important 
        international treaty obligations of the United States with 
        regard to fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats.
            (5) The System includes lands purchased not only through the 
        use of tax dollars but also through the proceeds from sales of 
        Duck Stamps and national wildlife refuge entrance fees. It is a 
        System that is financially supported by those benefiting from 
        and utilizing it.
            (6) When managed in accordance with principles of sound fish 
        and wildlife management and administration, fishing, hunting, 
        wildlife observation, and environmental education in national 
        wildlife refuges have been and are expected to continue to be 
        generally compatible uses.

[[Page 111 STAT. 1253]]

            (7) On March 25, 1996, the President issued Executive Order 
        12996, which recognized ``compatible wildlife-dependent 
        recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife 
        observation and photography, and environmental education and 
        interpretation as priority public uses of the Refuge System''.
            (8) Executive Order 12996 is a positive step and serves as 
        the foundation for the permanent statutory changes made by this 
        Act.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

    (a) In General.--Section 5 (16 U.S.C. 668ee) is amended to read as 
follows:

``SEC. 5. DEFINITIONS.

    ``For purposes of this Act:
            ``(1) The term `compatible use' means a wildlife-dependent 
        recreational use or any other use of a refuge that, in the sound 
        professional judgment of the Director, will not materially 
        interfere with or detract from the fulfillment of the mission of 
        the System or the purposes of the refuge.
            ``(2) The terms `wildlife-dependent recreation' and 
        `wildlife-dependent recreational use' mean a use of a refuge 
        involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
        photography, or environmental education and interpretation.
            ``(3) The term `sound professional judgment' means a 
        finding, determination, or decision that is consistent with 
        principles of sound fish and wildlife management and 
        administration, available science and resources, and adherence 
        to the requirements of this Act and other applicable laws.
            ``(4) The terms `conserving', `conservation', `manage', 
        `managing', and `management', mean to sustain and, where 
        appropriate, restore and enhance, healthy populations of fish, 
        wildlife, and plants utilizing, in accordance with applicable 
        Federal and State laws, methods and procedures associated with 
        modern scientific resource programs. Such methods and procedures 
        include, consistent with the provisions of this Act, protection, 
        research, census, law enforcement, habitat management, 
        propagation, live trapping and transplantation, and 
        regulated taking.
            ``(5) The term `Coordination Area' means a wildlife 
        management area that is made available to a State--
                    ``(A) by cooperative agreement between the United 
                States Fish and Wildlife Service and a State agency 
                having control over wildlife resources pursuant to 
                section 4 of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 
                U.S.C. 664); or
                    ``(B) by long-term leases or agreements pursuant to 
                title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (50 
                Stat. 525; 7 U.S.C. 1010 et seq.).
            ``(6) The term `Director' means the Director of the United 
        States Fish and Wildlife Service or a designee of that Director.
            ``(7) The terms `fish', `wildlife', and `fish and wildlife' 
        mean any wild member of the animal kingdom whether alive or 
        dead, and regardless of whether the member was bred, hatched, or 
        born in captivity, including a part, product, egg, or offspring 
        of the member.
            ``(8) The term `person' means any individual, partnership, 
        corporation, or association.

[[Page 111 STAT. 1254]]

            ``(9) The term `plant' means any member of the plant kingdom 
        in a wild, unconfined state, including any plant community, 
        seed, root, or other part of a plant.
            ``(10) The terms `purposes of the refuge' and `purposes of 
        each refuge' mean the purposes specified in or derived from the 
        law, proclamation, executive order, agreement, public land 
        order, donation document, or administrative memorandum 
        establishing, authorizing, or expanding a refuge, refuge unit, 
        or refuge subunit.
            ``(11) The term `refuge' means a designated area of land, 
        water, or an interest in land or water within the System, but 
        does not include Coordination Areas.
            ``(12) The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of the 
        Interior.
            ``(13) The terms `State' and `United States' mean the 
        several States of the United States, Puerto Rico, American 
        Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the territories and 
        possessions of the United States.
            ``(14) The term `System' means the National Wildlife Refuge 
        System designated under section 4(a)(1).
            ``(15) The terms `take', `taking', and `taken' mean to 
        pursue, hunt, shoot, capture, collect, or kill, or to attempt to 
        pursue, hunt, shoot, capture, collect, or kill.''.

    (b) Conforming Amendment.--Section 4 (16 U.S.C. 668dd) is amended by 
striking ``Secretary of the Interior'' each place it appears and 
inserting ``Secretary''.

SEC. 4. MISSION OF THE SYSTEM.

    Section 4(a) (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)) is amended--
            (1) by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs 
        (5) and (6), respectively;
            (2) in clause (i) of paragraph (6) (as so redesignated), by 
        striking ``paragraph (2)'' and inserting ``paragraph (5)''; and
            (3) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following new 
        paragraph:

    ``(2) The mission of the System is to administer a national network 
of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where 
appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and 
their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and 
future generations of Americans.''.

SEC. 5. ADMINISTRATION OF THE SYSTEM.

    (a) Administration Generally.--Section 4(a) (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)), as 
amended by section 4 of this Act, is further amended by inserting after 
new paragraph (2) the following new paragraphs:
    ``(3) With respect to the System, it is the policy of the United 
States that--
            ``(A) each refuge shall be managed to fulfill the mission of 
        the System, as well as the specific purposes for which that 
        refuge was established;
            ``(B) compatible wildlife-dependent recreation is a 
        legitimate and appropriate general public use of the System, 
        directly related to the mission of the System and the purposes 
        of many refuges, and which generally fosters refuge management 
        and through which the American public can develop an 
        appreciation for fish and wildlife;

[[Page 111 STAT. 1255]]

            ``(C) compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are 
        the priority general public uses of the System and shall receive 
        priority consideration in refuge planning and management; and
            ``(D) when the Secretary determines that a proposed 
        wildlife-dependent recreational use is a compatible use within a 
        refuge, that activity should be facilitated, subject to such 
        restrictions or regulations as may be necessary, reasonable, and 
        appropriate.

    ``(4) In administering the System, the Secretary shall--
            ``(A) provide for the conservation of fish, wildlife, and 
        plants, and their habitats within the System;
            ``(B) ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and 
        environmental health of the System are maintained for the 
        benefit of present and future generations of Americans;
            ``(C) plan and direct the continued growth of the System in 
        a manner that is best designed to accomplish the mission of the 
        System, to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystems of 
        the United States, to complement efforts of States and other 
        Federal agencies to conserve fish and wildlife and their 
        habitats, and to increase support for the System and 
        participation from conservation partners and the public;
            ``(D) ensure that the mission of the System described in 
        paragraph (2) and the purposes of each refuge are carried out, 
        except that if a conflict exists between the purposes of a 
        refuge and the mission of the System, the conflict shall be 
        resolved in a manner that first protects the purposes of the 
        refuge, and, to the extent practicable, that also achieves the 
        mission of the System;
            ``(E) ensure effective coordination, interaction, and 
        cooperation with owners of land adjoining refuges and the fish 
        and wildlife agency of the States in which the units of the 
        System are located;
            ``(F) assist in the maintenance of adequate water quantity 
        and water quality to fulfill the mission of the System and the 
        purposes of each refuge;
            ``(G) acquire, under State law, water rights that are needed 
        for refuge purposes;
            ``(H) recognize compatible wildlife-dependent recreational 
        uses as the priority general public uses of the System through 
        which the American public can develop an appreciation for fish 
        and wildlife;
            ``(I) ensure that opportunities are provided within the 
        System for compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses;
            ``(J) ensure that priority general public uses of the System 
        receive enhanced consideration over other general public uses in 
        planning and management within the System;
            ``(K) provide increased opportunities for families to 
        experience compatible wildlife-dependent recreation, 
        particularly opportunities for parents and their children to 
        safely engage in traditional outdoor activities, such as fishing 
        and hunting;
            ``(L) continue, consistent with existing laws and 
        interagency agreements, authorized or permitted uses of units of 
        the System by other Federal agencies, including those necessary 
        to facilitate military preparedness;
            ``(M) ensure timely and effective cooperation and 
        collaboration with Federal agencies and State fish and wildlife 
        agencies during the course of acquiring and managing refuges; 
        and

[[Page 111 STAT. 1256]]

            ``(N) monitor the status and trends of fish, wildlife, and 
        plants in each refuge.''.

    (b) Powers.--Section 4(b) (16 U.S.C. 668dd(b)) is amended--
            (1) in the matter preceding paragraph (1) by striking 
        ``authorized--'' and inserting ``authorized to take the 
        following actions:'';
            (2) in paragraph (1) by striking ``to enter'' and inserting 
        ``Enter'';
            (3) in paragraph (2)--
                    (A) by striking ``to accept'' and inserting 
                ``Accept''; and
                    (B) by striking ``, and'' and inserting a period;
            (4) in paragraph (3) by striking ``to acquire'' and 
        inserting ``Acquire''; and
            (5) by adding at the end the following new paragraphs:
            ``(4) Subject to standards established by and the overall 
        management oversight of the Director, and consistent with 
        standards established by this Act, to enter into cooperative 
        agreements with State fish and wildlife agencies for the 
        management of programs on a refuge.
            ``(5) Issue <<NOTE: Regulations.>>  regulations to carry out 
        this Act.''.

SEC. 6. COMPATIBILITY STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES.

    Section 4(d) (16 U.S.C. 668dd(d)) is amended by adding at the end 
the following new paragraphs:
    ``(3)(A)(i) Except as provided in clause (iv), the Secretary shall 
not initiate or permit a new use of a refuge or expand, renew, or extend 
an existing use of a refuge, unless the Secretary has determined that 
the use is a compatible use and that the use is not inconsistent with 
public safety. The Secretary may make the determinations referred to in 
this paragraph for a refuge concurrently with development of a 
conservation plan under subsection (e).
    ``(ii) On lands added to the System after March 25, 1996, the 
Secretary shall identify, prior to acquisition, withdrawal, transfer, 
reclassification, or donation of any such lands, existing compatible 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses that the Secretary determines shall 
be permitted to continue on an interim basis pending completion of the 
comprehensive conservation plan for the refuge.
    ``(iii) Wildlife-dependent recreational uses may be authorized on a 
refuge when they are compatible and not inconsistent with public safety. 
Except for consideration of consistency with State laws and regulations 
as provided for in subsection (m), no other determinations or findings 
are required to be made by the refuge official under this Act or the 
Refuge Recreation Act for wildlife-dependent recreation to occur.
    ``(iv) Compatibility determinations in existence on the date of 
enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
shall remain in effect until and unless modified.
    ``(B) Not <<NOTE: Regulations.>>  later than 24 months after the 
date of the enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement 
Act of 1997, the Secretary shall issue final regulations establishing 
the process for determining under subparagraph (A) whether a use of a 
refuge is a compatible use. These regulations shall--
            ``(i) designate the refuge official responsible for making 
        initial compatibility determinations;
            ``(ii) require an estimate of the timeframe, location, 
        manner, and purpose of each use;

[[Page 111 STAT. 1257]]

            ``(iii) identify the effects of each use on refuge resources 
        and purposes of each refuge;
            ``(iv) require that compatibility determinations be made in 
        writing;
            ``(v) provide for the expedited consideration of uses that 
        will likely have no detrimental effect on the fulfillment of the 
        purposes of a refuge or the mission of the System;
            ``(vi) provide for the elimination or modification of any 
        use as expeditiously as practicable after a determination is 
        made that the use is not a compatible use;
            ``(vii) require, after an opportunity for public comment, 
        reevaluation of each existing use, other than those uses 
        specified in clause (viii), if conditions under which the use is 
        permitted change significantly or if there is significant new 
        information regarding the effects of the use, but not less 
        frequently than once every 10 years, to ensure that the use 
        remains a compatible use, except that, in the case of any use 
        authorized for a period longer than 10 years (such as an 
        electric utility right-of-way), the reevaluation required by 
        this clause shall examine compliance with the terms and 
        conditions of the authorization, not examine the authorization 
        itself;
            ``(viii) require, after an opportunity for public comment, 
        reevaluation of each compatible wildlife-dependent recreational 
        use when conditions under which the use is permitted change 
        significantly or if there is significant new information 
        regarding the effects of the use, but not less frequently than 
        in conjunction with each preparation or revision of a 
        conservation plan under subsection (e) or at least every 15 
        years, whichever is earlier; and
            ``(ix) provide <<NOTE: Public information.>>  an opportunity 
        for public review and comment on each evaluation of a use, 
        unless an opportunity for public review and comment on the 
        evaluation of the use has already been provided during the 
        development or revision of a conservation plan for the refuge 
        under subsection (e) or has otherwise been provided during 
        routine, periodic determinations of compatibility for wildlife-
        dependent recreational uses.

    ``(4) The provisions of this Act relating to determinations of the 
compatibility of a use shall not apply to--
            ``(A) overflights above a refuge; and
            ``(B) activities authorized, funded, or conducted by a 
        Federal agency (other than the United States Fish and Wildlife 
        Service) which has primary jurisdiction over a refuge or a 
        portion of a refuge, if the management of those activities is in 
        accordance with a memorandum of understanding between the 
        Secretary or the Director and the head of the Federal agency 
        with primary jurisdiction over the refuge governing the use of 
        the refuge.''.

SEC. 7. REFUGE CONSERVATION PLANNING PROGRAM.

    (a) In General.--Section 4 (16 U.S.C. 668dd) is amended--
            (1) by redesignating subsections (e) through (i) as 
        subsections (f) through (j), respectively; and
            (2) by inserting after subsection (d) the following new 
        subsection:

    ``(e)(1)(A) Except with respect to refuge lands in Alaska (which 
shall be governed by the refuge planning provisions of the Alaska 
National Interest Lands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 3101 et seq.)), the 
Secretary shall--

[[Page 111 STAT. 1258]]

            ``(i) propose a comprehensive conservation plan for each 
        refuge or related complex of refuges (referred to in this 
        subsection as a `planning unit') in the System;
            ``(ii) publish <<NOTE: Federal Register, publication.>>  a 
        notice of opportunity for public comment in the Federal Register 
        on each proposed conservation plan;
            ``(iii) issue a final conservation plan for each planning 
        unit consistent with the provisions of this Act and, to the 
        extent practicable, consistent with fish and wildlife 
        conservation plans of the State in which the refuge is located; 
        and
            ``(iv) not less frequently than 15 years after the date of 
        issuance of a conservation plan under clause (iii) and every 15 
        years thereafter, revise the conservation plan as may be 
        necessary.

    ``(B) The Secretary shall prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
under this subsection for each refuge within 15 years after the date of 
enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 
1997.
    ``(C) The Secretary shall manage each refuge or planning unit under 
plans in effect on the date of enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Improvement Act of 1997, to the extent such plans are consistent 
with this Act, until such plans are revised or superseded by new 
comprehensive conservation plans issued under this subsection.
    ``(D) Uses or activities consistent with this Act may occur on any 
refuge or planning unit before existing plans are revised or new 
comprehensive conservation plans are issued under this 
subsection.
    ``(E) Upon completion of a comprehensive conservation plan under 
this subsection for a refuge or planning unit, the Secretary shall 
manage the refuge or planning unit in a manner consistent with the plan 
and shall revise the plan at any time if the Secretary determines that 
conditions that affect the refuge or planning unit have changed 
significantly.
    ``(2) In developing each comprehensive conservation plan under this 
subsection for a planning unit, the Secretary, acting through the 
Director, shall identify and describe--
            ``(A) the purposes of each refuge comprising the planning 
        unit;
            ``(B) the distribution, migration patterns, and abundance of 
        fish, wildlife, and plant populations and related habitats 
        within the planning unit;
            ``(C) the archaeological and cultural values of the planning 
        unit;
            ``(D) such areas within the planning unit that are suitable 
        for use as administrative sites or visitor facilities;
            ``(E) significant problems that may adversely affect the 
        populations and habitats of fish, wildlife, and plants within 
        the planning unit and the actions necessary to correct or 
        mitigate such problems; and
            ``(F) opportunities for compatible wildlife-dependent 
        recreational uses.

    ``(3) In preparing each comprehensive conservation plan under this 
subsection, and any revision to such a plan, the Secretary, acting 
through the Director, shall, to the maximum extent 
practicable and consistent with this Act--
            ``(A) consult with adjoining Federal, State, local, and 
        private landowners and affected State conservation agencies; and

[[Page 111 STAT. 1259]]

            ``(B) coordinate the development of the conservation plan or 
        revision with relevant State conservation plans for fish and 
        wildlife and their habitats.

    ``(4)(A) In <<NOTE: Public information.>>  accordance with 
subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall develop and implement a process to 
ensure an opportunity for active public involvement in the preparation 
and revision of comprehensive conservation plans under this subsection. 
At a minimum, the Secretary shall require that publication of any final 
plan shall include a summary of the comments made by States, owners of 
adjacent or potentially affected land, local governments, and any other 
affected persons, and a statement of the disposition of concerns 
expressed in those comments.

    ``(B) Prior to <<NOTE: Public information.>>  the adoption of each 
comprehensive conservation plan under this subsection, the Secretary 
shall issue public notice of the draft proposed plan, make copies of the 
plan available at the affected field and regional offices of the United 
States Fish and Wildlife Service, and provide opportunity for public 
comment.''.

SEC. 8. EMERGENCY POWER; STATE AUTHORITY; WATER RIGHTS; COORDINATION.

    (a) In General.--Section 4 (16 U.S.C. 668dd) is further 
amended by adding at the end the following new subsections:
    ``(k) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the 
Secretary may temporarily suspend, allow, or initiate any activity in a 
refuge in the System if the Secretary determines it is necessary to 
protect the health and safety of the public or any fish or wildlife 
population.
    ``(l) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the 
Secretary to control or regulate hunting or fishing of fish and resident 
wildlife on lands or waters that are not within the System.
    ``(m) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the 
authority, jurisdiction, or responsibility of the several States to 
manage, control, or regulate fish and resident wildlife under State law 
or regulations in any area within the System. Regulations permitting 
hunting or fishing of fish and resident wildlife within the System shall 
be, to the extent practicable, consistent with State fish and wildlife 
laws, regulations, and management plans.
    ``(n)(1) Nothing in this Act shall--
            ``(A) create a reserved water right, express or implied, in 
        the United States for any purpose;
            ``(B) affect any water right in existence on the date of 
        enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 
        of 1997; or
            ``(C) affect any Federal or State law in existence on the 
        date of the enactment of the National Wildlife Refuge System 
        Improvement Act of 1997 regarding water quality or water 
        quantity.

    ``(2) Nothing in this Act shall diminish or affect the ability to 
join the United States in the adjudication of rights to the use of water 
pursuant to the McCarran Act (43 U.S.C. 666).
    ``(o) Coordination with State fish and wildlife agency personnel or 
with personnel of other affected State agencies pursuant to this Act 
shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. 
App.).''.
    (b) Conforming Amendment.--Section 4(c) (16 U.S.C. 668dd(c)) is 
amended by striking the last sentence.

[[Page 111 STAT. 1260]]

SEC. 9. STATUTORY <<NOTE: 16 USC 668dd note.>>  CONSTRUCTION WITH 
            RESPECT TO ALASKA.

    (a) In General.--Nothing in this Act is intended to affect--
            (1) the provisions for subsistence uses in Alaska set forth 
        in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (Public 
        Law 96-487), including those in titles III and VIII of that Act;
            (2) the provisions of section 102 of the Alaska National 
        Interest Lands Conservation Act, the jurisdiction over 
        subsistence uses in Alaska, or any assertion of subsistence uses 
        in Alaska in the Federal courts; and
            (3) the manner in which section 810 of the Alaska National 
        Interest Lands Conservation Act is implemented in national 
        wildlife refuges in Alaska.

    (b) Conflicts of Laws.--If any conflict arises between any provision 
of this Act and any provision of the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act, then the provision in the Alaska National Interest 
Lands Conservation Act shall prevail.

    Approved October 9, 1997.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY--H.R. 1420:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

HOUSE REPORTS: No. 105-106 (Comm. on Resources).
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 143 (1997):
            June 3, considered and passed House.
            Sept. 10, considered and passed Senate, amended.
            Sept. 23, House concurred in Senate amendments.
WEEKLY COMPILATION OF PRESIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS, Vol. 33 (1997):
            Oct. 9, Presidential statement.

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