Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Fish and Wildlife Resources Toolbox
The Fish and Wildlife Resources Toolbox is a 'work in progress' and
represents only the information available. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on
. Date of last update: 10/31/13.
Basis in the Wilderness Act and meaning of law
Wilderness Act Provisions
The Wilderness Act and Wildlife Management
Wildlife Management Direction from Congress in House Report 101-405b Agency Policy
BLM and FS IAFWA 1986
Policies and Guidelines
Areas managed with reference to 1986 version
BLM and FS IAFWA Reaffirmation - 2002 FS AFWA 2006
Policies and Guidelines
AFWA Minimum Requirement Decision Process Outline
Frequently Asked Questions
Worksheet - Evaluating Project Effects on Wilderness Character
BLM and FS AFWA Policies Comparison Table
Biologists Perspective Case Law
Wilderness Society v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 353 F.3d 1051 (9th Cir. 2003), amended by 360 F.3d 1374 (9th Cir. 2004) Topic: Fish and wildlife management and commercial enterprise (Tustamena Lake) Background: In 1975, the Alaska Fish & Game Department (AFGD) started a sockeye salmon project in Tustumena Lake on Kenai National Moose Range. They would collect eggs from a tributary, incubate the eggs at a hatchery (outside of the refuge), and return the eggs to the lake. In 1980, ANILCA made the Range a NWR, and designated 1,354,000 acres of wilderness on the refuge. The salmon project (now occurring in designated wilderness) was allowed to continue as a research project. An MOU between the refuge and AFGD allowed them to obtain a Special Use Permit for a temporary camp each year, with 10 million eggs collected and 6 million fry stocked into Tustumena Lake to study the effect of stocking on native lake fish and on disease incidence. In 1993, ADFG entered into a contract with Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA), a private, non-profit corporation "comprised of associations representative of commercial fishermen in the region" as well as "other user groups interested in fisheries within the region" "organized for the purpose of engaging in salmon enhancement work throughout the Cook Inlet Region," to staff and run the salmon hatchery program. The refuge completed an Environmental Assessment and a Compatibility Determination, both of which allowed the salmon project to continue. Since 1987, about 6 million fry have been released annually. In 1999 the Wilderness Society and the Alaska Center for the Environment sued the FWS for violation of the Wilderness Act and the NWRSAA of 1966. Holding: The district court concluded that designated wilderness is not off limits to all human interference and thus, FWS had discretion in managing the area to preserve its natural conditions, including authorizing the stocking project. The District Court found that the Enhancement Project was not a commercial enterprise that Congress prohibited within the designated wilderness. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed. "We conclude that the district court erred in finding that the Enhancement Project is not a "commercial enterprise" that Congress prohibited within the designated wilderness. We reverse and remand so that the final decision of the USFWS may be set aside, the Enhancement Project enjoined, and judgment entered for Plaintiffs." Amended in 2004: "On remand, the scope of immediate injunctive relief is submitted to the discretion of the District Court. The District Court shall have discretion, upon an adequate showing of justification, to fashion the injunction so as to accommodate a resolution with respect to this year's batch, and this year's batch only, of six million sockeye salmon fry from Bear Creek that are currently in the CIAA's Trail Lakes hatchery. See Nat'l Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Babbitt, 241 F.3d 722, 740 (9th Cir.2001)." Key language: The court noted of THE WILDERNESS ACT that, "there shall be no commercial enterprise ... within any wilderness area." 16 U.S.C. § 1133(c). The court used the plain meaning of "commercial" as "occupied with or engaged in commerce or work intended for commerce; of or relating to commerce." Wilderness Society v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 353 F.3d at 1061. The project was designed primarily to promote the commercial interests of fishing interests in the Cook Inlet, not wilderness values. The court held that the project constituted a commercial enterprise prohibited by THE WILDERNESS ACT. THE WILDERNESS ACT requires that the lands and waters duly designated as wilderness must be left untouched, untrammeled, and unaltered by commerce. "Congress spoke clearly to preclude commercial enterprise...regardless of whether it is aimed at assisting the economy with minimal intrusion on wilderness values." "Even non-profit entities may engage in commercial activity." Key lessons: Both the purpose and the effect of challenged activities may be reviewed in determining whether an activity constitutes prohibited commercial enterprise. Even if there is only minimal intrusion on the wilderness area, activities which are pursued for the purposes of a commercial enterprise are prohibited by THE WILDERNESS ACT. A fish stocking program in a wilderness area constituted a prohibited activity intended for commercial use even when the actual collection of the salmon would occur outside of the wilderness area.
Wilderness Watch v. US Fish and Wildlife Service, 629 F. 3d 1024, 1039 - Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 2010 Topic: Wildlife management and the minimum necessary (Kofa water structures) Background: The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in southwest Arizona contains a desert ecosystem that is home to, among other species, bighorn sheep. After an unexpected decline in the population of the sheep, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") built two water structures (the Yaqui and McPherson tanks) within the wilderness area. Plaintiffs Wilderness Watch, Inc., Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, Western Watersheds Project, and Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club brought suit against the Service. Plaintiffs allege that the Service's actions violated the express prohibition on the development of structures in the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1131-1133. Holding: The district court granted summary judgment to the Service, and Plaintiffs timely appeal. Reviewing de novo, High Sierra Hikers Ass'n v. Blackwell, 390 F.3d 630, 638 (9th Cir. 2004), we reverse and remand. Key language: "But a generic finding of necessity does not suffice...; the Service must make a finding that the structures are "necessary" to meet the minimum requirements for the administration of the area" (emphasis in original). "...many other strategies could have met the goal of conservation without having to construct additional structures within the wilderness area (for example, eliminating hunting, stopping translocations of sheep, and ending predation by mountain lions)...[as well as] temporary trail closures. Importantly, in contrast to the creation of new structures within the wilderness, the Wilderness Act does not prohibit any of those actions....Indeed, the [FWS's] report concluded that "[n]ew water developments can likely be constructed outside of wilderness," which would not require a finding of necessity." "Unless the Act's "minimum requirements" provision is empty, the Service must, at the very least, explain why addressing one variable is more important than addressing the other variables and must explain why addressing that one variable is even necessary at all, given that addressing the others could fix the problem just as well or better" (emphasis in original). Follow-up: Following the December 2010 Ninth Circuit decision, several hunting-related groups, including the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, intervened in support of the FWS. The groups submitted a petition to the Ninth Circuit Court asking for a rehearing en banc. In March 2011 their petition was denied.
CALIFORNIANS FOR ALTERNATIVES v. US Fish & Wildlife Serv. 814 F. Supp. 2d 992 - Dist. Court, ED California, 2011 Topic: Fish stocking (using rotenone) and impacts to wilderness character Background: The USFWS, the CDFG and the USFS (sometimes collectively, the "Agencies") have proposed the Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project to poison with rotenone eleven miles of Silver King Creek and then stock this area with pure PCT from established populations in the upper portions of the watershed. Silver King Creek is within the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The eleven-mile project area includes a six-mile stretch of the mainstream of the river downstream of Llewellyn Falls to Silver King Canyon, sometimes referred to as lower Silver King Creek, and five miles of tributaries. Currently six populations of PCT inhabit eleven and one-half miles of Silver King Creek, including above Llewellyn Falls. In 2010, the Agencies published the EIR/EIS for the Project at issue in this case. The EIR/EIS analyzes three alternatives: the No Action Alternative ("Alternative One"); the Proposed Action Alternative ("Alternative Two"); and the Combined Physical Removal Alternative ("Alternative Three"). Alternative One continues current management of existing PCT populations in Silver King Creek, without introducing new populations or efforts to eradicate non-native trout; the EIR/EIS concluded that this alternative would not result in direct environmental benefits. On May 20, 2010, both the USFS and the USFWS issued Records of Decision ("ROD") adopting Alternative Two, the Proposed Action Alternative. The Forest Supervisor explained that she chose Alternative Two over Alternative Three because the CDFG and the USFWS had determined that the application of rotenone to Silver King Creek was "the most effective method to remove non-native trout within PCT historic habitat." As the representative of the agency mandated to manage lands protected under the Wilderness Act, the Forest Supervisor concluded that "the short term negative effects to the 'natural' Wilderness character through introduction of a chemical pesticide were balanced by the improved long term natural conditions of Wilderness character through restoration of a native species." On June 15, 2010, plaintiffs filed this case. By their instant motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs seek an order for declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, plaintiffs ask the court to find a violation of NEPA and/or the Wilderness Act and enjoin implementation of the Proposed Action Alternative under the EIR/EIS. Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion and cross-move for summary judgment. Holding: "Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a violation of NEPA and therefore, their motion on that claim is DENIED. However, plaintiffs have shown a violation of the Wilderness Act because in choosing one competing value (the conservation of the PCT) over the other (preservation of the wilderness character), the Agencies left native invertebrates species out of the balance, and thus improperly concluded that authorization of motorized equipment will comply with the Act by achieving the purpose of preserving wilderness character. Having shown a violation of the Wilderness Act, plaintiffs are entitled to a permanent injunction, enjoining implementation of the Paiute Cuttroat Trout Restoration Project because: (1) through the expert declaration of Nancy Erman, they have demonstrated that the rotenone treatment will kill sensitive macroinvertebrate species and that recolonization will not occur for some species because they cannot adapt to the Project area habitat; (2) the balance of equities tips in their favor as no exigency exists to begin the Project now; and (3) the public interest favors preservation of the unimpaired wilderness." "Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants, and each of them, and their respective agents, partners, employees, contractors, assignees, successors, representatives, permittees and all persons acting under authority from, in concert with, or for them in any capacity, including in a volunteer capacity, are enjoined from allowing to be conducted or conducting any component of the Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project, including specifically any application of rotenone formulations and potassium permanganate to Silver King Creek and its tributaries in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness in Alpine County, California. Defendants' cross-motion is accordingly DENIED with respect to plaintiffs' Wilderness Act claim."
CALIFORNIANS FOR ALTERNATIVES v. US Fish & Wildlife Serv. 814 F. Supp. 2d 992 - Dist. Court, ED California, May 2013 Topic: Fish stocking (using rotenone) and the minimum necessary Background: See the case summary above for the background to this case. This is an order to dissolve the injunction placed on the defendants in that case. Holding: "Defendants move to dissolve the permanent injunction issued on September 6, 2011, which enjoined Defendants from "implementation of the Paiute Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project," based on the finding that Defendants violated the Wilderness Act of 1964, 16 U.S.C. § 1133(c), by "failing to consider the potential extinction of native invertebrate species as a factor relevant to the decision of whether the extent of the [use of prohibited motorized equipment] was necessary." Cal. For Alts. to Toxics v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 814 F. Supp. 2d 992, 1024, 1019 (E.D. Cal. 2011). Plaintiffs have filed a statement of nonopposition in response to the motion. Defendants explain in their motion that since this injunction issued, Defendants have issued a revised Minimum Requirements Decision Guide that addresses what should have been considered. Defendants' unopposed motion reveals that Defendants have met the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) for relief from a final judgment by showing that the injunction should be dissolved. Therefore, Defendants' motion is granted, and the injunction is dissolved. Dated: May 13, 2013"
Wolf Recovery Foundation v. US Forest Service 692 F. Supp. 2d 1264 - Dist. Court, D. Idaho, 2010 Topic: Helicopter use to dart & collar wolves and wilderness character Background: In 1978, the gray wolf was declared to be an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In an attempt to reintroduce the wolf to the Rocky Mountain area, the Fish and Wildlife Service released 35 gray wolves into the Frank Church Wilderness in 1995 and 1996. As the reintroduction became successful, and wolf numbers grew, the Idaho Legislature approved a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 2002. It states that "[m]onitoring wolf populations is the cornerstone of a management program." Tasked with managing the wolf population, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission prepared a Wolf Population Management Plan for the years 2008 to 2012 with the goal of "ensur[ing] the long-term viability of the gray wolf population." In 2009 the gray wolf was taken off the ESA endangered species list in Idaho. Both the ESA and the Wolf Population Management Plan required Idaho to monitor wolves for 5 years after delisting. To fulfill these duties, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) requested authorization from the Forest Service to use helicopters to dart and collar wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Forest Service proposed to issue a special use permit to the IDFG for this purpose and took public comments. The Forest Service then issued a Decision Memorandum finding that the permit would issue and explaining its decision as follows: Because of the importance of wolf recovery to enhancement of wilderness character, the high public interest in the recovery of wolves and the desire for knowledge about wolves in central Idaho, it is important that IDFG obtain accurate wolf population data for central Idaho wilderness. In issuing the special use permit, the Forest Service did not prepare an Environmental Assessment or other NEPA analysis, but instead relied on two categorical exclusions. The first was established by the Secretary of Agriculture for "[i]nventories, research activities, and studies, such as resource inventories and routine data collection when such actions are clearly limited in context and intensity." See 7 C.F.R. § 1b.3(a)(3). The second was from the Forest Service's own regulation providing a categorical exclusion for "[a]pproval, modification, or continuation of minor special uses of [National Forest System] lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land." See 36 C.F.R. § 220.6(e)(3). Plaintiffs seek to enjoin the Forest Service from using helicopters in the Frank 1266*1266 Church Wilderness to dart and collar wolves. Plaintiffs claim that the use of aircraft violates NEPA and the Wilderness Act. Wilderness Act Holding: "Helicopters carry "man and his works" and so are antithetical to a wilderness experience. It would be a rare case where machinery as intrusive as a helicopter could pass the test of being "necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area. However, this case may present that most rare of circumstances. Here, the helicopters are used to collect data on wolves. The wolves were released in the Frank Church Wilderness to restore the area's wilderness character. Currently, there is a "lack of data...on denning sites, wolf movement patterns and distribution, rendezvous sites, numbers of packs and breeding pairs, an other behavior patterns...." AR 008566. Of the 14 or so wolf packs in the Frank Church Wilderness, 8 to 10 have no wolves with radio collars. That data gap is specifically why the helicopters are being used. Their use will be limited to a two-week period, during which the IDFG is already flying to conduct its annual big game survey, and only 20 landings are authorized. The Court is faced with a very unique circumstance here. It was man who wiped out the wolf from this area. Now man is attempting to restore the wilderness character of the area by returning the wolf. As the numbers have grown, and delisting occurred, the goal is no longer simply restoration but now focuses on long-term viability and a balance among prey and predator. The collaring project and its use of helicopters is sufficiently limited and focused on restoring the wilderness character of the area that it falls within the phrase "necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area." See 16 U.S.C. § 1133(c). NEPA Holding: "Clearly the use of helicopters in a wilderness area is highly intrusive and controversial, and must be deemed "intense" as that term is defined above. And yet, at the same time, it appears to be properly "limited" so that it falls within the terms of the categorical exclusion. The fly-overs are restricted to 20 landings over a two-week period during which fly-overs for the annual big game survey will occur. This would be a much different case if the collaring operation was being done at a different time than the big game survey fly-overs." Additional Key Points Made by the Court: "The plaintiffs described their version of the Forest Service's argument: "We must destroy the wilderness in order to save it." Plaintiffs make a telling point here. The Frank Church Wilderness must "retain its primeval character and influence" and provide "outstanding opportunities for solitude." See 16 U.S.C. § 1131(c). A helicopter ruins these opportunities. At the same time, the helicopter can be necessary to restoring the wilderness character of the area. This is a conundrum, and its answer depends on the vision of the Wilderness Act. That Act could have directed that the area remain entirely wild and unmanaged, but it did not take that path. Instead, the Act contemplates some management "necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area." The Court finds above that the proposed activity meets this definition. 1270*1270 "Still, the Court shares plaintiffs' concerns that this decision could be interpreted wrongly as a stamp of approval on helicopter use. It is not for two reasons. First, the decision is limited by its facts: This proposed activity is designed to aid the restoration of a specific aspect of the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness that had earlier been destroyed by man. The use of helicopters for any other purpose would be extremely difficult to justify under the Wilderness Act, NEPA, or any categorical exclusion. Second, the next helicopter proposal in the Frank Church Wilderness will face a daunting review because it will add to the disruption and intrusion of this collaring project. The Forest Service must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Court is free to examine the cumulative impacts of the projects, and the context of the use. Given that this project is allowed to proceed, the next project will be extraordinarily difficult to justify." (emphasis added) Cases involving Federal and State jurisdiction concerning wildlife management
Hunt v. U.S., 278 U.S. 96 (1928) Topic: Kaibab deer, Fed/State Key Language: "The power of the United States to...protect its lands and property does not admit of doubt,...the game laws or any other statue of the state to the contrary notwithstanding."
Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529, (U.S. 1976) Topic: Supremacy Clause/ Property Clause, Fed/State Key Language: "Congress' complete authority over the public lands includes the power to regulate and protect the wildlife living there....Federal legislation necessarily overrides conflicting state laws under the Supremacy Clause....Where those state laws conflict with...other legislation passed pursuant to the Property Clause, the law is clear: The state laws must recede." "Unquestionably the States have broad trustee and police powers over wild animals within their jurisdictions. But...those powers exist only 'in so far as [their] exercise may not be incompatible with, or restrained by, the rights conveyed to the Federal government by the Constitution.'"
Hughes v. Oklahoma (U.S. 1979) Topic: State ownership of wildlife, Fed/State Key Language: "Time has revealed the error of the result reached in Geer [v. Connecticut] through its application of the 19th century legal fiction of state ownership of wild animals....Geer is today overruled."
Wyoming v. U.S., No. 99-8089 (10th Cir. 2002) Topic: National Elk Refuge, Fed/State Key Language: "Historically, States have possessed "broad trustee and police powers over the...wildlife within their borders, including...wildlife found on Federal lands within a State." 43 C.F.R. § 24.3 (policy statement of the USDI). But those powers are not constitutionally-based." "State jurisdiction over federal land does not extend to any matter that is not consistent with full power in the United States to protect its lands, to control their use, and to prescribe in what manner others may acquire rights in them." "Federal legislation, together with the policies and objectives encompassed therein, necessarily override and preempt conflicting state laws, policies, and objectives under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause." "In view of [Kleppe}, we believe the point painfully apparent that the Tenth Amendment does not reserve to the State of Wyoming the right to manage wildlife." Topic: National Elk Refuge, Savings Clause Key Language: "The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (NWRSIA) concludes with an opaque provision termed 'State authority: 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.'...Viewed in isolation,[this] seems to support [the State's contention] that...the State retains the absolute right to manage wildlife on the [Refuge]....Such an interpretation of the saving clause, however, simply is not feasible in light of established rules of construction requiring us to consider the NWRSIA in its entirety, mindful of congressional purposes and objectives....By establishing a system 'to administer a national network of lands and waters...' Congress undoubtedly intended a preeminent federal role....If we construed the NWRSIA to grant the State of Wyoming the sweeping power it claims, the State would be free to manage and regulate the [Refuge] in a manner the FWS deemed incompatible with the [Refuge's] purpose....We find highly unlikely the proposition that Congress would carefully craft the substantive provisions of the [law] to grant authority to the FWS to manage the [Refuge] and promulgate regulations thereunder, and then essentially nullify those provisions and regulations with a single sentence."
National Audubon Society v. Davis, 307 F.3d 835 (9th Cir. 2002) Topic: CA trapping, Fed/State Key Language: "Because National Wildlife Refuges are federal government land, Congress has the authority under the Property Clause to preempt state action with respect to NWR management and has done so through the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. We therefore hold that the NWRSIA preempts [the state of California's] regulation of federal trapping on NWRs in California because the ban on leg hold traps conflicts with FWS's statutory authority on those federal reserves." Management Guidelines, Processes and Templates
Stewardship Principles and 4 Cornerstones
Minimum Requirements Analysis
Wilderness Resource Stewardship Model for Fish and Wildlife FWS
Strategic Habitat Conservation Intranet Website
Literature Search Website
Fisheries and Habitat Conservation
Migratory Birds Needs Intranet Website
NWRS Wildlife Management Intranet Website
Endangered Species Intranet Website
NWRS Habitat Management Intranet Website FS
Fish Barriers in Wilderness Discussion Paper Examples of Plans, Analysis, MOUs, and Agreements
BLM - NV MoU 2003 FWS
San Juan Islands NWR Issues Statement
Oregon Islands NWR CCP Work Plan
Writing Wildlife Goals and Objectives
FWS-USGS-TWS MOU FS
Plans and Analysis Tools
Cooperative Agreement - Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
MOU between the California Department of Fish and Game and the Forest Service
MOU between the Wyoming Fish and Game Commission and the Forest Service
Cooperative MOUs between State Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Forest Service Region 6
States Monitoring Resources
Natural Resources Monitoring Partnership
"Keeping It Wild: An Interagency Strategy to Monitor Trends in Wilderness Character Across the National Wilderness Preservation System." RMRS-GTR-212 FWS
Biological Monitoring Team Website
NWRS Wildlife Inventory Intranet Website Resources and Other Publications
Pacific Southwest Research Science Perspectives Wilderness Stewardship Reference System (WSRS)
Wildlife Corn, Paul Stephen 2001. Fish stocking impacts to mountain lake ecosystems: the introduction of nonnative fish into wilderness lakes: good intentions, conflicting mandates, and unintended consequences Ecosystems 4(4): 275-278
Kammer, Sean. 2013.
Coming to Terms With Wilderness: The Wilderness Act and the Problem of Wildlife Restoration. Environmental Law Review, 43(83): 83-124 Krausman, Paul R.; Czech, Brian. 2000. Wildlife management activities in wilderness areas in the southwestern United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 28(3): 550-557
Landres, Peter; Meyer, Shannon; Matthews, Sue 2001.
The Wilderness Act and fish stocking: an overview of legislation, judicial interpretation, and agency implementation Ecosystems 4(4): 287-295 Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
Research Application Program
Research in a Nutshell
Annotated Reading Lists
Other Databases Training
Leopold Fish Stocking
Workshop Overview - 1998
The Wilderness Act and Wildlife Management in Wilderness, Carlson (26.1 MB)
Managing Fish and Wildlife in Wilderness, Landres (3.9 MB)
Wilderness in the Courts Webinar Series, Session 4: Wildlife Management This webinar was held on August 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM Eastern time. The 90-minute session featured Peter Appel, the Alex W. Smith Professor of Law at the University of Georgia Law School, and introduced participants to the topic through case studies analyzing fish and wildlife management.
Q & A Sample Agendas
Interagency Coordination Meeting - Boise, ID, 2004
Salmon Stocking Barred Article
AK Salmon Stocking Ruling