The Division of Parks and Wildlife (DPW) serves a vital role in protecting the country’s natural and cultural resources, and it contains two branches that primarily advise the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and a third branch which focuses on Environmental Restoration. The members of this division handle high-profile matters related to the Endangered Species Act, which protects animals and their habitats from extinction. The division is also a key advisor to the National Park Service. Established in 1916, the NPS and its 20,000 employees manage 424 national park units that welcome over 300 million visitors each year.
The Acting Associate Solicitor for the Division of Parks and Wildlife is John Rudolph. The general contact for DPW is 202-208-4344.
The Branch of National Parks (NP) provides advice on national-level issues concerning the National Park System, including matters pertaining to natural resource management and protection, cultural resource management, Tribal co-management and Native American graves, law enforcement, recreational activities, and commercial services on NPS lands. Additionally, as counsel to the NPS National Capital Region, this branch helps to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights by advising on permitting, special events and law enforcement issues, and provides legal counsel to the National Mall, the White House and President’s Park, Rock Creek Park, and other park units in the capital area. This branch helps NPS manage relationships and agreements with a variety of local community partners who donate to, volunteer at, and advocate for the continued protection and preservation of parks, enabling more access and educational opportunities for the public, and it advises the NPS on its extensive commercial services program, under which concessioners provide visitors with lodging, food, and experiences from horseback riding to river trips to wilderness experiences.
The Branch of Fish and Wildlife (FW) advises the FWS and their work primarily focuses on the implementation and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other wildlife statutes; these well-known statutes protect animals at risk and their habitats. Attorneys in this branch have worked on Supreme Court cases and are national experts in the protection of endangered species. They work closely with SOL’s regional offices on ESA matters, particularly those related to listing, critical habitat, and interagency cooperation. This branch also works frequently with wildlife refuges, managing land and land use, and provides advice on FWS’s grant programs. Some matters involve international cooperation due to cross-border migration patterns and international treaties, and other matters center around the needs of Indian Tribes, including the use of eagle feathers and subsistence hunting.
The Branch of Environmental Restoration (ER) manages legal claims for the restoration of natural resources, habitats, and ecosystems managed by the Department that are injured or destroyed by hazardous substance releases, oil spills, or other damaging activities. This branch prepares to litigate and/or negotiate settlements to fund the restoration and protection of publicly owned resources with the companies responsible for disasters to provide an equivalent for every harm committed, replacing the animals or plants affected. The branch also is responsible for ensuring that all legal and environmental compliance requirements are followed when implementing restoration and conservation projects. Their work encompasses a broad range of legal authorities, including the Oil Pollution Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Federal Power Act, the Systems Unit Resource Protections Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.