Overview. The Act prohibits the taking or possession of and commerce in bald
and golden eagles, with limited exceptions.
Findings/Policy. The enacting clause of the original Act stated that the
Continental Congress in 1782 adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol;
that the bald eagle became the symbolic representation of a new nation and the
American ideals of freedom; and that the bald eagle threatened with
extinction. § 668 note.
Selected Definitions. Take: includes pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound,
kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb. Transport: includes convey or
carry by any means; also deliver or receive for conveyance. § 668c.
Prohibitions. The Act imposes criminal and civil penalties on anyone
(including associations, partnerships and corporations) in the U.S. or within
its jurisdiction who, unless excepted, takes, possesses, sells, purchases,
barters, offers to sell or purchase or barter, transports, exports or imports
at any time or in any manner a bald or golden eagle, alive or dead; or any
part, nest or egg of these eagles; or violates any permit or regulations
issued under the Act. A criminal conviction requires that the violator acted
knowingly or with wanton disregard of the consequences. According to the Act,
the criminal penalty is a maximum $5,000 fine or one-year imprisonment, or
both, doubled for subsequent convictions, but the Sentencing Reform Act of
1984, as amended in 1987, increases maximum fines significantly. Each
prohibited act is a separate violation. One-half of the criminal fine, but not
to exceed $2,500, must be paid to whoever gives information leading to
conviction. The civil penalty is a maximum fine of $5,000 per violation, with
each violation a separate offense. Any livestock grazing agreement on federal
land held by a person convicted under this Act is subject to immediate
cancellation. § 668.
Exceptions. If compatible with the preservation of bald and golden eagles, the
Secretary of the Interior may issue regulations authorizing the taking,
possession and transportation of these eagles for scientific or exhibition
purposes, for religious purposes of Indian tribes or for the protection of
wildlife, agricultural or other interests. If requested by a state governor,
the Secretary must authorize the taking of golden eagles to protect
domesticated flocks and herds in the state. The Secretary also may permit the
taking, possession and transportation of golden eagles for falconry, if these
eagles would have been taken because of depredations on livestock or wildlife.
The Secretary may permit the taking of golden eagle nests which interfere with
resource development or recovery operations. Bald eagles may not be taken for
any purpose unless the Secretary issues a permit prior to the taking. § 668a.
Enforcement. Authorized Department of Interior employees who witness a
violation of this Act may arrest the violator without a warrant and take the
person to an officer or court. These employees also may execute warrants to
enforce the Act and conduct searches. Any federal judge or magistrate may
issue warrants upon probable cause. The Secretary may enter into cooperative
agreements with state fish and wildlife agencies or other appropriate
authorities to facilitate enforcement of the Act, and may delegate enforcement
authority to state law enforcement personnel as appropriate. § 668b.
Forfeiture. All bald or golden eagles, or their parts, nests or eggs, taken or
otherwise used in violation of this Act, and all guns, traps, nets, other
equipment and means of transportation used in violation of this Act, are
subject to forfeiture to the federal government. Federal laws relating to the
forfeiture of vessels for violation of custom laws apply to forfeitures under
this Act. § 668b.
Appropriations Authorized. Funds available to the Secretary for administering
and enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are equally available for
administering and enforcing this Act. § 668d.