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Legislation Pertaining to Habitat Restoration

Federal Legislation - State Legislation

Federal Laws collage

The federal laws listed below contain components that affect, both directly and indirectly, habitat restoration programs throughout the United States. The brief descriptions presented offer an overview of each law and the web site links direct readers to the official U.S. Code. For information about what specific habitat restoration programs are funded by which laws, go to Funding Opportunities.

The primary sources for information concerning federal laws was the Habitat Restoration Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This list was compiled in February 2001.


Program & Project Regulation | Special Resources & Activities | Other Laws of Interest



Laws that Fund or Regulate Habitat Restoration Projects or Create Habitat Restoration Programs

  • Estuaries and Clean Water Act of 2000
    President Clinton signed this legislation to protect estuaries. It establishes an Estuary Habitat Restoration Council that is responsible for developing a National Habitat Restoration Strategy within one year and for reviewing and establishing funding priorities among restoration projects. The goal is to promote a comprehensive approach to the selection and prioritization of estuary habitat restoration projects and the coordination of federal and non-federal restoration activities. The legislation also reauthorizes the National Estuary Program and other federal estuary programs. President George W. Bush is now responsible for appropriations and implementation of the Act.
  • Magnuson- Stevenson Fisheries Management and Conservation Act of 1996
    Originally introduced in 1956, this legislation (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) has been amended multiple times and was most recently reauthorized in 2000. The Magnuson-Stevenson Act governs fishing in all United States waters throughout the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (to 200 miles). The purpose of the Act is to promote conservation and sound management of commercial and recreational fishing resources. It covers all species of marine animals and plants, including anadromous fish, except for marine mammals, birds, and highly migratory species, all of which are covered under other laws or treaties.
  • Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act of 1990
    The Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. 3951-3956 (Supp. 1991)) authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make matching National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants to coastal states for acquiring, managing, restoring, or enhancing wetlands. Priority is given to projects that are consistent with the National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan and that are in states with dedicated funding programs for the acquisition of coastal wetlands, natural areas, and open spaces.
  • Water Resources Development Act of 1990
    The Water Resources Development Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. 2201-2324 (Supp. 1991) states that the goal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' resources development program is "no overall net loss" of wetlands. The act also requires the Corps to develop an action plan to achieve this goal. The action plan must be prepared in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Oil Pollution Act of 1990
    The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) (33 U.S.C. 2701-2761) is the principle statute governing oil spills into the nation's waterways. Passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March of 1989, it establishes liability and limitations on liability for damages resulting from oil pollution, and establishes a fund for the payment of compensation for such damages. In conjunction with CERCLA, it mandates a National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) to provide the organizational structure and procedures for preparing for and responding to discharges of oil and the release of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants.
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989
    Signed by President Bush, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 (16 U.S.C. 4401-4413 (Supp. 1991)) encouraged partnerships among federal agencies and others to protect, restore, enhance, and manage wetlands, and other habitats for migratory birds, fish and wildlife. The act obligates annual appropriations for the implementation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which was signed by the United States and Canada (and endorsed by Mexico) to provide a broad framework for waterfowl conservation and management in North America.
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1985
    The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1985 (16 U.S.C. 661-668 (Supp.1991)) established guidelines for consultation between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mitigation measures are also identified to prevent the loss of, or damage to, wildlife resources from permitted activity. The purpose of this act is to provide fish and wildlife resources "equal consideration" with other features of water resource development programs.
  • Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972
    The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451-1464), and subsequent amendments (1985 and Supp. 1991), makes federal funds available to encourage states to develop coastal zone management plans which would provide for conservation and environmentally sound development of coastal resources. The purpose of the CZMA is to "preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the Nation's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations."
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (The Clean Water Act)
    The primary goal of this statute, which is more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) and has since been amended, is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters," and to apply the best available and economically achievable technology in order to obtain water quality at a level adequate to protect fish, shellfish, wildlife and human recreational activities. A broad framework of planning, research, financial assistance, and permits systems was outlined with the purpose of furthering national goals for the elimination of both direct and indirect discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters of the United States.
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
    The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4375 (1977 and Supp. 1991)) directs all agencies and the Federal government to address the environmental consequences of their proposed actions. Federal agencies must prepare environmental impact statements on major federal actions, including construction projects, permits, licenses, etc., that could significantly affect the human environment. The purpose of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is to disclose to the general public and to resource managers the probable long- and short-term impacts of the proposal as well as consideration of less environmentally damaging alternatives to the recommended course of action.
  • Estuary Protection Act of 1968
    The Estuary (Estuarine) Protection Act of 1968 (PL 90-454, as amended et seq. 16 U.S.C. 1221 et seq.) established congressional policy on values of estuaries and the need to conserve their natural resources. The purpose of the act is to provide a means to protect, conserve, and restore estuaries in a manner that "adequately and reasonably" maintains a balance between the national need for protecting and conserving natural resources and natural beauty and the need to develop estuaries to further the growth and development of the nation.
  • Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965
    The Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965 (16 U.S.C. 757a et seq. (Supp. 1965) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to cooperate with the states in conserving, developing, and enhancing the Nation's anadromous fisheries resources. The act authorizes research, construction, and maintenance of hatcheries and of structures to improve feeding and spawning conditions, and to facilitate the free migration of fish.
  • Federal Aid In Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950
    The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 (16 U.S.C. 777a-77771 (1985 and Supp. 1991)) provides federal aid to states in sport fishing restoration work. Also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, this legislation is funded by excise taxes on fishing equipment, import duties on fishing tackle and pleasure boats, and a portion of a tax on motorboat fuels.
  • Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937
    The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (16 U.S.C. 669 et seq. (1985 and Supp. 1991), which is also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), provides federal aid to states for wildlife restoration work. Funds from an excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition are provided to sStates on a matching basis for land acquisition, development, and management projects.
  • Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
    The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 401 et seq.) was originally established to protect interstate commerce in navigable waters. It is the basic act for controlling works or activities in navigable waters of the United States, overseen by the Department of the Army through a public interest review. This provision calls for the review of such factors as economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, historical values, water quality, and fish and wildlife impact before approval of the project is granted.
  • Park System Resources Protection Act
    The Park System Resources Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 19jj) requires the Secretary of the Interior to assess and monitor injuries to park system resources. The act specifically allows the Secretary to recover response costs and damages from the responsible party causing the destruction, loss of or injury to park system resources. It provides that any monies recovered by the National Park Service may be used to reimburse the costs of response and damage assessment and to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the injured resources.
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Laws that May Apply to Habitat Restoration Programs or Projects Depending on Resources or Factors Involved

  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 and 1986
    The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.) of 1980 and 1986 is the principle statute governing the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and responses to spills of those substances. It establishes liability for site cleanup, prescribes a procedure for identifying and ranking contaminated sites, provides funding for site cleanups, reduces uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances, establishes cleanup procedures that provide protection for humans and the environment, and restores injured natural resources through provisions administered by the natural resources trustees.
  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979
    The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) makes it illegal to excavate or remove from federal or Indian lands any archaeological resources without a permit from the land manager. Permits may be issued only to educational or scientific institutions and only if the resulting activities will increase knowledge about archeological resources. Major penalties for violating the law are included.
  • Endangered Species Act of 1973
    The Endangered Species Act (ESA), first enacted in 1973 and amended in both 1955 and 1991 (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407), prohibits any action that could harm, harass, or further endanger federally designated endangered or threatened plant or animal species or the associated critical habitat. The purposes of the ESA are, in part, "to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend may be conserved and to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered and threatened species…"
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
    The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (as amended 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) generally prohibits taking and importation of marine mammals. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have jurisdictional responsibilities under this law.
  • National Historic Preservation Act
    The National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) created the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), an independent federal agency, to advise the President and Congress on matters involving historic preservation. The ACHP is authorized to review and comment on all actions licensed by the federal government which will have an effect on properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
    The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a - 742j, not including 742d-1) establishes a comprehensive national fish, shellfish, and wildlife resources policy with emphasis on the commercial fishing industry, but also with a direction to administer the act with regard to the inherent right of every citizen and resident to fish for pleasure, enjoyment, and betterment and to maintain and increase public opportunities for recreational use of fish and wildlife resources. Among other things, it directs a program of continuing research, extension, and information services on fish and wildlife matters, both domestic and international.
  • Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
    The Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.) regulates the ocean dumping of waste, provides for a research program on ocean dumping, and provides for the designation and regulation of marine sanctuaries. Often known as the Ocean Dumping Act, it regulates the ocean dumping of all material beyond the territorial limit (three miles from shore) and prevents or strictly limits dumping material that "would adversely affect human health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine environment, ecological systems, or economic potentialities."
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Other Environmental Laws of Interest

  • Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986
    The Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986 (16 U.S.C. 3901) was enacted to "promote the conservation of migratory waterfowl and to offset or prevent the serious loss of wetlands by the acquisition of wetlands and other essential habitat." Under the Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan to identify the locations and types of wetlands that should be priorities for state and federal acquisition.
  • Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands) of 1977
    Executive Order 11990 of 1977 (42 F.R. 26961 as amended by Exec. Order #12608 (1987), reprinted in 42 U.S.C. 4321 app. at 244-245 (1991)), issued by President Jimmy Carter, officially recognized the value of the country's wetlands. Through this order, the President directed federal agencies to take actions to minimize the long- and short-term, indirect and direct, adverse impacts associated with the destruction or modification of wetlands, and to preserve and enhance the natural and beneficial values of wetlands in carrying out their responsibilities.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1974
    Under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 4601-4 to 4601-11 (1974 and Supp. 1991)), states and local communities could receive Federal matching grants to acquire recreational lands and natural areas, including wetlands. This legislation was amended in 1986 by the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act. The change required States to identify the agencies and organizations involved in wetlands management, evaluate existing and proposed wetlands protection mechanisms, assess wetlands resources, identify wetlands loss and degradation factors, and establish priorities for protection.
  • Clean Air Act of 1970
    The Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources. This law authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and the environment. States were directed to develop implementation plans applicable to industrial sources in the state. The act was amended in 1977 to set new goals for achieving attainment of NAAQS since many areas of the country had failed to meet the deadlines previously set for 1975. The act was also amended in 1990.
  • National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968
    The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.), and amendments, create a system for designation and preservation of free-flowing rivers through private, state, or federal land. The overall objective of this legislation is to complement the federal dam construction policy with "a policy to preserve selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes."
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
    The migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as amended in 1936, 1972, 1974, and 1976 (16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.), implements treaties with Great Britain (for Canada), Mexico, Japan, and Russia for protection of migratory birds whose welfare is a federal responsibility. The act regulates the taking, selling, transporting, and importing of migratory birds, and provides penalties for violations.
  • National Park Act of August 19, 1916
    The National Park Act of August 19, 1916 (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.), also known as the Organic Act, created in the Department of the Interior, the National Parks Service (NPS). The NPS is charged with the promotion and regulation of the use of the federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations, so as to conform with "the fundamental purpose to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment for the same in such manner and by means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®