Text: H.R.1420 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)All Information (Except Text)
Public Law No: 105-57 (10/09/1997)
[105th Congress Public Law 57]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997
[[Page 111 STAT. 1252]]
Public Law 105-57
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
(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
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
(a) In General.--Section 5 (16 U.S.C. 668ee) is amended to read as
``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
``(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
``(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
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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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;
[[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
(2) in paragraph (1) by striking ``to enter'' and inserting
(3) in paragraph (2)--
(A) by striking ``to accept'' and inserting
(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
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
``(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
``(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
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
``(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
[[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;
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
``(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
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
``(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
``(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.
(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.