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The Government's Role
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service works to protect endangered species.
By Karen Fanning

coring timber
A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Employee cores timber to promote red-cockaded woodpecker nests in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
(Photo: George Gentry/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service )
Today, 1,264 U.S. species are threatened or endangered. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they have a fighting chance at a future.

As a branch of the Department of Interior, the Wildlife Service is the primary governmental agency responsible for protecting and improving our nation's fish, wildlife, and plants, along with their habitats. Among its many assignments, the Wildlife Service is charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and federal wildlife laws.

It also oversees the country's 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes 544 national wildlife refuges and thousands of wetlands and other important nature areas. It runs dozens of national fish hatcheries and sets hunting regulations for migratory birds, like ducks.

In addition to preserving and reviving wildlife habitats at home, the agency teams up with foreign governments to enhance their conservation work.

The agency's director, Steve Williams, left six months ago to become president of the Wildlife Management Institute in Washington, D.C. President Bush has nominated H. Dale Hall to assume Williams's leadership post. Hall is awaiting confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can trace its roots back to 1871 to the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries. It became part of the Department of Interior in 1939.