Fish and Wildlife Service Increases Civil Penalties for Violations of Federal Wildlife Protection Laws
Fish and Wildlife Service Increases Civil Penalties for Violations of Federal Wildlife Protection Laws

On February 2, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule increasing civil monetary penalties for violations of several federal wildlife and natural resource protection laws (Final Rule).  The Final Rule updates penalties for violations of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Lacey Act, and other statutes concerning federally protected animal species.

Under section 4 of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. 2461, as amended by the Inflation Adjustment Act, Public Law 114–74, 129 Stat. 584 (2015), each federal agency is required to issue annually a rule adjusting the statutory civil monetary penalties that can be imposed under the respective laws the agency administers. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provides agencies an adjustment multiplier that is based on the rate of inflation. In the preamble to the Final Rule, the Service states that periodically increasing the penalties’ dollar amounts ensures that these laws retain their deterrent effects and further the policy goals of the underlying statutes.

While the Final Rule should have been published by the Service no later than January 15, 2024, like in 2023, there was a minor delay. The Service published the Final Rule without an opportunity for public comment. Section 553(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq.) (APA) provides that the public notice and comment processes typically required under the APA are unnecessary for non-discretionary, ministerial rulemakings.

The Service’s penalty adjustments are based on OMB’s 2024 adjustment multiplier (1.03241), resulting in a year-over-year increase of 3.241% to the maximum civil penalties that the Service can assess per violation. These adjusted penalties, listed below, took effect upon publication of the rule and will remain in effect until the 2025 update.

Statute Citation Type of Violation 2024 Maximum Civil Monetary Penalty
Endangered Species Act 16 U.S.C. § 1540(a)(1) (1) Knowing violation of 16 U.S.C. § 1538 (“take” prohibition)
(2) Other knowing violation
(3) Any other violation

(1) $63,991

(2) $30,715

(3) $1,617

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act 16 U.S.C. § 668(b) Any violation $16,170
Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 16 U.S.C. § 3373(a) (1) Violations referred to in 16 U.S.C. § 3373(a)(1)
(2) Violations referred to in 16 U.S.C. § 3373(a)(2)

(1) $32,341

(2) $808

Marine Mammal Protection Act 16 U.S.C. § 1375 Any violation $32,341
Recreational Hunting Safety Act of 1994 16 U.S.C. § 5202(b)

(1) Violation involving use of force or violence or threatened use of force or violence

(2) Any other violation

(1) $20,579

(2) $10,289

Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act 16 U.S.C. § 5305a(b)(2) Any violation $22,512
Wild Bird Conservation Act 16 U.S.C. § 4912(a)(1)

(1) Any violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 4910(a)(1–2), or any permit issued under § 4911

(2) Violation of 16 U.S.C. § 4910(a)(3)

(3) Any other violation

(1) $54,243

(2) $26,035

(3) $1,086

African Elephant Conservation Act 16 U.S.C. § 4224(b) Any violation $12,799
  • John B. O'Meara

    John O'Meara handles matters concerning liability for environmental compliance issues and torts, including enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state or local regulators. He ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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