V. Typical Federal Wildlife Crimes
At the federal level, Congress is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to enact appropriate legislation, and create government units to enforce such legislation, for any and all wildlife crimes for which there is a national, or federal, interest. Accordingly, Congress has enacted a wide variety of federal criminal statutes relating to wildlife crimes and vested enforcement of these statutes in a number of federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). At the federal level, it is the USFWS that primarily focuses on protecting wildlife resources throughout the country. The USFWS contains an office of law enforcement that investigates federal wildlife crime and regulates interstate and international wildlife trade. They focus on identifying and apprehending international and domestic smuggling rings that deal in endangered or protected species, protecting wildlife and habitats from environmental hazards, enforcing federal migratory bird and game hunting laws, and monitoring legal domestic and international wildlife trade to ensure that regulations are followed (USFWS, 2007).
Intelligence and general investigative resources are typically superior at the federal level compared to most state levels. For instance, the USFWS compiles information concerning species, port of entry, mode of transportation, and time of year to monitor the illegal wildlife trade. This information has been used to develop a risk assessment system that aids in targeting illegal animal trading.
The USFWS sometimes works with states to protect game animals and enforce state wildlife laws. (Just over 2% of the USFWS’s 2006 investigative caseload was spent on state law violations.) However, most of the USFWS’s investigative efforts are spent working on cases involving endangered species and enforcing laws regulating importation and exportation of wildlife. For example, a great deal of federal resources are committed to enforcing the Lacey Act, which prohibits the exportation, importation, sale, transportation, or purchase of fish and wildlife taken or possessed in violation of any federal, tribal, state, or foreign laws. Recognizing the investigative limitations imposed by the reduced number of federal agents in the field, the USFWS works very closely with state agencies and many state wildlife enforcement personnel cross-designated as federal USFWS agents in an effort to increase the number of wildlife offenders who may be prosecuted in federal court (USFWS, 2007).