Federal MPA Legislation
page contains some of the legislation in place that provides the
authority for various federal agencies and government entities
to establish, manage, monitor and/or evaluate marine protected
areas at the federal level. This list is not inclusive.
Antiquities Act (1906): Authorizes the President
to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic
and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific
interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled
by the Government of the United States to be national monuments,
and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits
of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible
with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Also permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological
sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands
under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries
of the Interior and Agriculture to institutions which they may
deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation,
or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may
Coastal Zone Management Act (1972):
A federal authority that establishes the Coastal Zone Management
Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserves System. It
provides a framework for decision-making that balances coastal
resource use and conservation.
Endangered Species Act (1973):
A 1973 Federal law, amended in 1978 and 1982, to protect troubled
species from extinction. The National Marine Fisheries Service
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decide whether to list species
as threatened or endangered. Federal agencies must avoid jeopardy
to and aid the recovery of listed species. Similar responsibilities
apply to non-federal entities.
Fish And Wildlife Coordination Act (1934):
Provides the basic authority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
involvement in evaluating impacts to fish and wildlife from proposed
water resource development projects. It requires that fish and
wildlife resources receive equal consideration to other project
features. It also requires that federal agencies that construct,
license, or permit water resource development projects must first
consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (and the National Marine
Fisheries Service in some instances) and state fish and wildlife
agencies regarding the impacts on fish and wildlife resources
and measures to mitigate these impacts.
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation
and Management Act (1976; amended 1996): Calls for assessment
and consideration of ecological, economic, and social impacts
of fishing regulations on fishery participants and fishing communities
in marine fishery management plans.
Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972):
Established to protect and manage marine mammals and their products
(e.g., the use of hides and meat). The primary authority for implementing
the act belongs to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
National Marine Fisheries Service. The Act prohibits the "take"
of marine mammals, which is defined as "to harass, hunt,
capture or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill any
marine mammal." The term "harassment" is further
defined as "any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance which
has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock
in the wild or has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or
marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral
patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing,
nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering."
National Marine Sanctuaries Act (1972):
Authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate and manage areas
of the marine environment with special national significance due
to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific,
cultural, archeological, educational, or esthetic qualities as
National Marine Sanctuaries. The primary objective of this law
is to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, sunken historical
vessels, or unique habitats. The Act also directs the Secretary
to facilitate all public and private uses of those resources that
are compatible with the primary objective of resource protection.
Sanctuaries are managed according to site-specific management
plans prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
(NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program.
National Park Service Organic Act (1916):
Established to promote and regulate the use of the federal areas
known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter
specified….”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 such means as
will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
National Historic Preservation Act (1966):
Congress made the federal government a full partner and a leader
in historic preservation: to "provide leadership" for
preservation, "contribute to" and "give maximum
encouragement" to preservation, and "foster conditions
under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic
resources can exist in productive harmony."
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration
Act (1966): Provides for the administration and management
of the national wildlife refuge system, including wildlife refuges,
areas for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife
threatened with extinction, wildlife ranges, game ranges, wildlife
management areas and waterfowl production areas.
Wilderness Act (1964): Set aside
certain federal lands as wilderness areas. These areas, generally
5,000 acres or larger, are wild lands largely in their natural
state. The act says that they are areas "...where the earth
and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself
is a visitor who does not remain." Four federal agencies
of the United States government administer the National Wilderness
Preservation System: the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National
Definitions of U.S. MPA-related terms are provided in