Wildlife Protection Laws
Many of us enjoy viewing habitat and wildlife when out on the water, but it is important to remember that wildlife and habitat around San Francisco Bay are protected under local, state, and federal laws. Water Trail site owners and managers also need to be aware of these laws because although the Water Trail program has no enforcement authority, various local, state, and federal agencies do. The following summary of pertinent wildlife or habitat-related laws is provided as a reference.
Federal Endangered Species Act
The purpose of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 is to conserve species populations that are endangered or threatened. The Act provides a mechanism for listing species as endangered or threatened, identifying critical habitat areas used by these species, and establishes criminal penalties for the “take” of listed wildlife and fish. Take means to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” Harass means “an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.” Responsibility for implementing this Act is shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for terrestrial and freshwater species, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service for marine and anadromous species.
California Endangered Species Act
The California Endangered Species Act has objectives and requirements that are similar to those of the Federal Endangered Species Act except that a permit is required for incidental take of all state listed species (California Department of Fish and Wildlife Code 2080). The California Department of Fish and Wildlife implements the Act. Agencies or other organizations must consult with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on proposed actions (e.g., issuing permits, funding projects) that could jeopardize endangered or threatened species.
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 and National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997
The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 conserves and protects listed endangered and threatened species and migratory birds through protection and restoration of species’ habitats, and by managing uses, such as recreation, of Refuge areas to prevent negative impacts to these species. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 designates wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation as “priority general public uses.” When these activities are compatible with species protection goals (as determined by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), they are welcome on refuges and receive priority over other uses. In the San Francisco Bay area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service own and manage National Wildlife Refuges and Bay waters totaling 30,000 acres. The San Francisco Bay Refuge complex comprises a significant portion of the Bay environment, and includes the following:
- Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
- Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and
- San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 implements various treaties and conventions
between the U.S. and Canada, Japan, Mexico and the former Soviet Union for the protection of migratory birds. The Act prohibits take of waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, hawks, and others. Both U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are responsible for implementing the Act and issuing permits for incidental take of migratory birds, as well as hunting licenses for game species.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
The goal of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 is to reduce marine mammal mortalities and injuries. The Act regulates scientific research in the wild and other activities to protect marine mammals. It protects all marine mammals, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), sirenians (manatees and dugongs), sea otters, and polar bears within the waters of the United States. Under the Act, it is unlawful to “take” any marine mammal. Take includes harassment or attempting to harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act for otters (and certain other species not found in the Bay), while National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service is responsible for all other marine mammals.