Interior on the World Stage for Conservation


In addition to conserving America’s public lands and working within the United States, Interior and its bureaus collaborate with nations around the world to protect resources and at-risk species. Through agreements, treaties and legislation, experts and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad work together to learn from each other, fight international crime, track migrating birds, ensure sustainable trade and protect species of common concern like sea turtles, monarch butterflies and bats.

Carefully negotiated and built on a foundation of cooperation, these agreements ensure that nations can partner to do what’s best for people and the planet.

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement

A small dog on a lease puts its paws on a large piece of black luggage and sniffs it.
Trained dogs are an important tool for border security and fighting illegal wildlife trafficking. Photo by Lance Cheung, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USMCA fulfills a commitment by the Trump Administration. It will mean a stronger economy growth, more jobs and increased trade for our country. And if that isn’t enough, the USMCA also includes some of the strongest and most comprehensive provisions of any United States trade agreement. Unlike NAFTA, the environmental obligations in the USMCA are incorporated into the core text of the agreement, fully enforceable and subject to the dispute resolution provisions of the agreement. Central to Interior’s involvement, the environmental chapter addresses issues of environmental law enforcement, protecting marine life, improving air quality, and combating illegal wildlife, timber, and fish trafficking. The USMCA also enhances protections for the world’s endangered species.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

A large black gorilla sitting in the jungle.
Gorillas are among the 37,000 species of animals and plants protected by CITES. Photo by Richard Ruggiero, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild. CITES facilitates legal and sustainable trade of wildlife and helps protect both plants and animals. Currently, 183 parties have signed on to CITES to protect more than 37,000 species of animals and plants. You’re probably wondering, how does this affect me? There are currently 136 species native to the United States that are provided with the highest levels of protections CITES offers. Some of them may live or migrate near you.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

A group of small gray birds flying across a blue sky.
The red knot bird flies from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America each year. Red knot populations were decimated by commercial hunting until the passing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918. Photo by Gregory Breese, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It’s always a thrill to see birds flying across the clear blue sky. For an instant, we put ourselves in their place, soaring over the treetops and diving just for fun. With no regard for borders or lines on a map, birds go where nature leads them until they reach their next landing spot. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia to establish and enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The MBTA makes it illegal to sell, export, import, transport or purchase any migratory bird without a Federal Permit. For example, this protects the spot-billed duck from exploitation, and also bald eagles, our national symbol. This treaty allows for international cooperation so that birds can fly where the wind leads them, nest where they please, and so that we can continue to admire and protect the nearly 1,000 native birds that the treaty takes under its wing.

Lacey Act

Jewelry carved from ivory, wood and bone sit in a display case.
Manufacturers of this jewelry faced jail time for using ivory, bone, wood and coral after the smuggling ring was uncovered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

CSI Plant Edition: Did you know there is a forensic laboratory to evaluate evidence for plant and animal crimes? Interior employees at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab in Oregon developed a small yet nimble tool to detect wood that has been illegally logged and imported in the United States, known as DART- Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometer. It’s an important way to enforce the Lacey Act. One of the oldest wildlife and anti-illegal logging statutes in history, the Lacey Act made it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell or acquire any interstate or foreign endangered plants, including timber and wood. The act was passed back in 1900, with the motivation of protecting game species, and was the first federal law protecting wildlife. Since then, the Lacey Act has been amended to expand its protection to a broader range of plants and animals to preserve America’s resources.

Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2007 

A sliver fish with black dots on its back jumps out of churning water towards a waterfall.
An adult steelhead trout is jumping into a holding pond at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Laura Mahoney, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The fish of the world make up a beautiful, unique ecosystem. Whether marine life is your source of seafood, entertainment or just admiration, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act protects that valuable ecosystem. The act prevents overfishing, increases economic and social benefits and ensures sustainable measures are in place, as Interior works with other nations to communicate, strategize and protect marine life. Interior’s international efforts protect creatures like Nemo and his friends, and keep tabs on the underwater world.

RAMSAR Wetlands Convention

A group of about a dozen ducks swim across the still waters of a wetland of grass and water on a wide flat plain with hills in the distance under a clear blue sky.
The vast Wood River Wetland in Oregon hosts bald eagles, beavers and wood ducks in its historic delta. Photo by Greg Shine, Bureau of Land Management.

A melting pot of biological diversity, wetlands fuel productive environments and provide water for a range of plants and animals. Wetlands provide people with freshwater, building materials, flood control, groundwater recharge and climate change mitigation. However, wetlands are not always used properly and often become contaminated. In an effort to protect these valuable ecosystems, the RAMSAR Wetlands Convention -- or the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance --  serves as an international and intergovernmental treaty outlining cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Notably, some of the largest RAMSAR sites are in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Bolivia. Abundant, but threatened around the world, you may not have realized how wetlands are beneficial to people.

Though seemingly focused on U.S. domestic interests, the Department of the Interior also supports and participates in a wide range of international affairs. Interior works collaboratively with other nations around the world to promote, protect and sustain the natural wonders of the world.