Land law

Land law is the form of law that deals with the rights to use, alienate, or exclude others from land. In many jurisdictions, these kinds of property are referred to as real estate or real property, as distinct from personal property. Land use agreements, including renting, are an important intersection of property and contract law. Encumbrance on the land rights of one, such as an easement, may constitute the land rights of another. Mineral rights and water rights are closely linked, and often interrelated concepts.

Land rights are such a basic form of law that they develop even where there is no state to enforce them; for example, the claim clubs of the American West were institutions that arose organically to enforce the system of rules appurtenant to mining. Squatting, the occupation of land without ownership, is a globally ubiquitous phenomenon.

National sovereignty

Sovereignty, in common law jurisdictions, is often referred to as absolute title, radical title, or allodial title. Nearly all of these jurisdictions have a system of land registration, to record fee simple interests, and a land claim process to resolve disputes.

Land rights

Indigenous land rights are recognized by international law, as well as the national legal systems of common law and civil law countries. In common law jurisdictions, the land rights of indigenous peoples are referred to as aboriginal title. In customary law jurisdictions, customary land is the predominant form of land ownership.

Land reform refers to government policies that take and/or redistribute land, such as a land grant.

Land rights refer to the inalienable ability of individuals to freely obtain, use, and possess land at their discretion, as long as their activities on the land do not impede on other individuals’ rights.[1] This is not to be confused with access to land, which allows individuals the use of land in an economic sense (i.e. farming). Instead, land rights address the ownership of land which provides security and increases human capabilities. When a person only has access to land, they are in constant threat of expulsion depending on the choices of the land owner, which limits financial stability.[1]

Land rights are an integral part of Land Laws, as they socially enforce groups of individuals’ rights to own land in concurrence with the land laws of a nation. Land Law addresses the legal mandates set forth by a country in regards to land ownership, while land rights refer to the social acceptance of land ownership. Landesa takes the stance that although the law may advocate for equal access to land, land rights in certain countries and cultures may hinder a group’s right to actually own land.[2] Laws are important, but they must be backed up by cultural tradition and social acceptance. Therefore, laws concerning land ownership and land rights of a country must be in agreement.

Globally, there has been an increased focus on land rights, as they are so pertinent to various aspects of development. According to Wickeri and Kalhan, land ownership can be a critical source of capital, financial security, food, water, shelter, and resources.[3] The UN Global Land Tool organisation has found that rural landlessness is a strong predictor of poverty and hunger,[4] and negatively impacts Empowerment and the realisation of Human rights.[5] In order to home in on this critical problem of inadequate land rights, The Millennium Development Goal 7D strives to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers.[6] This includes increased land rights for impoverished people, which will ultimately lead to a higher quality of life.[3]

Although land rights are fundamental in achieving higher standards of living, certain groups of individuals are consistently left out of land ownership provisions. The law may provide access to land, however, cultural barriers and poverty traps limit minority groups’ ability to own land.[7] In order to reach equality, these groups must obtain adequate land rights that are both socially and legally recognised.

Limits of national jurisdiction and sovereignty

Limits of national jurisdiction and sovereignty
Outer space (including Earth orbits; the Moon and other celestial bodies, and their orbits)
national airspace territorial waters airspace contiguous zone airspace international airspace
land territory surface internal waters surface territorial waters surface contiguous zone surface Exclusive Economic Zone surface international waters surface
internal waters territorial waters Exclusive Economic Zone international waters
land territory underground Continental Shelf surface extended continental shelf surface international seabed surface
Continental Shelf underground extended continental shelf underground international seabed underground

Land rights and women

Several scholars argue that women’s lack of sufficient land rights negatively affects their immediate families and the larger community, as well.[7][8][9] With land ownership, women can develop an income and allocate this income more fairly within the household.[10][11] Tim Hanstad claims that providing sufficient land rights for women is beneficial because, once women can exercise those rights the following will be promoted:[12]

  • Women will be less likely to contract and spread HIV/AIDS as they do not have to resort to prostitution
  • Women will be less likely to be victims of Domestic violence
  • Their children will be more likely to get an education and stay in school longer
  • Women will be better positioned to get access to Microcredit

In many parts of the world, women have access to land in order to farm and cultivate the land; however, there are traditions and cultural norms which bar women from inheriting or purchasing land.[7][11] This puts women in a place of dependence on their husbands, brothers, or fathers for their livelihood and shelter.[9] Should there be an illness, domestic violence, or death in the family, women would be left landless and unable to either grow crops for food, or rent land for profit. Land ownership for women is a crucial form of security and income, increasing Empowerment and decreasing Poverty.

India

Kanakalatha Mukund makes the important point that although women in India have the legal right to own land, very few actually do as a result of the patriarchal practices which dominate the nation.[13] Up until recently, Indian women have been left out of laws regarding the distribution of public land and were forced to rely on the small possibility of obtaining private land from their families.[9] Inheritance laws which cater towards men are one of the key issues behind inequality in land rights. According to Bina Agarwal, land ownership defines social status and political power in the household and in the village, shaping relationships and creating family dynamics.[9] Therefore, inheritance of land automatically puts men above women both in the household, and in the community. Without political pull in the village, and with limited bargaining powers within the household, women lack the voice to advocate for their own rights.[9]

Another issue with land rights in India is that they leave women completely dependent on the lives of their husbands. A study by Bina Agarwal found that in West Bengal, prosperous families turn destitute when the male head of the household dies, as women are not permitted to take over their husband’s land.[9] Also, due to cultural tradition, the higher the status of the woman, the less likely she is to have any developed skills that would be useful in finding work.[9] These women are forced to beg for food and shelter once their husbands die because they have not been allowed to gain work experience.[9]

Bina Agarwal argues that land ownership significantly decreases the chance of domestic violence against Indian women.[10] Owning property elevates women to a higher status within the household, allowing more equality and bargaining power. In addition, owning property separately from their husbands allowed women an opportunity of escape from abusive relationships.[10] Agarwal concluded that the prospect of a safe shelter outside of the main household decreases the longevity of domestic violence.[10]

Land rights are critical for women in India due to the heavily patriarchal society in which they live. Cultural perspectives play a key role in the acceptance of equality within land ownership. Women owning land ultimately benefits the household and society as a whole.[8]

The most recent advance towards equality in land rights in India was the Hindu Succession Act of 2005. This act aimed to remove the gender discrimination which was present in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. In the new amendment, daughters and sons have equal rights to obtain land from their parents.[14] This act was both a legally and socially important move for women’s rights to land. Not only did it legally mandate equality in land succession, it also validated women’s roles as equals in society.

Uganda

Uganda’s 1995 Constitution enforces equality between men and women, including the acquisition and ownership of land.[15] However, research from Women’s Land Link Africa reveals that women remain excluded from land ownership due to customs and deeply ingrained cultural habits.[16] Even when women save up enough money to purchase land, the land is signed in their husband’s name, while women sign as the witness.[16] Inheritance practices are a particular obstacle which reduces women empowerment, as well. Land is passed down through male lineage which reinforces women’s exclusion from land ownership.[17] Another detriment to equality, pointed out by Women’s Land Link Africa, is that women lack sufficient knowledge about the rights they have under the law to own land.[16] Rural, illiterate women do not even have access to the new constitution which guarantees them land rights.

Although the 1995 Constitution provides for equality between men and women, there are still gaps in the law which affect women’s rights to land. The law protects the rights to land of wives in marriage; however, it does not address the needs of widows or divorcees.[17] Consequentially, these women are left landless and without the protection land offers. Also, women have a difficult time taking cases to court due to corruption and expensive trials.[16] The trials concerning land take so long to process that many women do not even attempt to seek legal assistance.

Women’s Land Link Africa provides suggestions to alleviate inequality in land ownership. Rural women can be educated about their rights through radio campaigns, community discussions, educational outreach programs, and public forums.[16] The cultural nuances must be addressed in policies and community leaders can be educated about inclusion of minority groups.[16] Also, the law itself can address the rights of widows and divorcees in addition to the rights of married women.[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Adi, D.N. (2009). Critical Mass Representation in Uganda. 1-38.
  2. ^ Hanstad, T. (2010). Secure Land Rights. Landesa.
  3. ^ a b Wickeri, Elisabeth; Kalhan, Anil (2010). "Land Rights Issues in International Human Rights Law". Malaysian Journal on Human Rights. 4 (1): 16–25. SSRN 1921447.
  4. ^ Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (2009), Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons, 3-5.
  5. ^ UN Global Land Tool Network (2010) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2010-12-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Millennium Development Goal Monitor: Tracking the Mellennium Development Goals. (2010) http://www.mdgmonitor.org/goal7.cfm
  7. ^ a b c Hanstad, T. (2010). Secure Land Rights. Rural Development Institute.
  8. ^ a b Agarwal, B. (1988). “Who Sows? Who Reaps? Women and Land Rights in India” Journal of Peasant Studies. 531-581.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Agarwal, B. (1994). “A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia”. Cambridge University Press.
  10. ^ a b c d Agarwal, B. (2005). “Marital Violence, Human Development, and Women’s Property Status in India” World Development. 823-850.
  11. ^ a b Deere, C.D., & Doss, C. R. (2006). “Gender and the Distribution of Wealth in Developing Countries. World Institute for Development Economics Research, 1-27.
  12. ^ Hanstad, T. (2010). Secure Land Rights. Rural Development Institute
  13. ^ Mukund, K. (1999). “Women's Property Rights in South India: A Review”. Economic and Political Weekly.
  14. ^ Hindu Succession Act 2005. September 5, 2005. http://www.hrln.org/admin/issue/subpdf/HSA_Amendment_2005.pdf
  15. ^ Constitution of Uganda. (1995). http://www.ugandaonlinelawlibrary.com/files/constitution/constitution_1995.pdf
  16. ^ a b Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. (2010). “Uganda-Women’s Land Rights: The Gap Between Policy and Practice”. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2010-12-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
1969 Swiss referendums

Two referendums were held in Switzerland in 1969. The first was held on 1 June on a federal law on the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and was rejected by 66% of voters. The second was held on 14 September 1969 on an amendment to the constitution regarding land law, and was approved by 56% of voters.

American System (economic plan)

The American System was an economic plan that played an important role in American policy during the first half of the 19th century. Rooted in the "American School" ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the plan "consisted of three mutually reinforcing parts: a tariff to protect and promote American industry; a national bank to foster commerce; and federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other 'internal improvements' to develop profitable markets for agriculture". Congressman Henry Clay was the plan's foremost proponent and the first to refer to it as the "American System".

Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States within the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the administration and management of 55,700,000 acres (225,000 km2) of land held in trust by the United States for Native Americans in the United States, Native American Tribes and Alaska Natives.

The BIA is one of two bureaus under the jurisdiction of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs: the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, which provides education services to approximately 48,000 Native Americans.

The BIA’s responsibilities originally included providing health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives. In 1954 that function was transferred to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now known as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and it is now known as the Indian Health Service.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers more than 247.3 million acres (1,001,000 km2) of public lands in the United States which constitutes one-eighth of the landmass of the country. President Harry S. Truman created the BLM in 1946 by combining two existing agencies: the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. The agency manages the federal government's nearly 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate located beneath federal, state and private lands severed from their surface rights by the Homestead Act of 1862. Most BLM public lands are located in these 12 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The mission of the BLM is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." Originally BLM holdings were described as "land nobody wanted" because homesteaders had passed them by. All the same, ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres (630,000 km2) of BLM public lands. The agency manages 221 wilderness areas, 27 national monuments and some 636 other protected areas as part of the National Conservation Lands (formerly known as the National Landscape Conservation System), totaling about 36 million acres (150,000 km2). In addition the National Conservation Lands include nearly 2,400 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and nearly 6,000 miles of National Scenic and Historic Trails. There are more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands. Total energy leases generated approximately $5.4 billion in 2013, an amount divided among the Treasury, the states, and Native American groups.

California Alien Land Law of 1913

The California Alien Land Law of 1913 (also known as the Webb-Haney Act) prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases over it, but permitted leases lasting up to three years. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California. Implicitly, the law was primarily directed at the Japanese. It passed thirty-five to two in the Senate and seventy-two to three in the Assembly and was co-written by attorney Francis J. Heney and California state attorney general Ulysses S. Webb at the behest of Governor Hiram Johnson. Japan's Consul General Kametaro Iijima and lawyer Juichi Soyeda lobbied against the law. In a letter to the United States Secretary of State, the Japanese government via the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs called the law “essentially unfair and inconsistent… with the sentiments of amity and good neighborhood which have presided over the relations between the two countries,” and noted that Japan felt it was “in disregard of the spirit of the existing treaty between Japan and the United States.” The law was meant to discourage immigration from Asia, and to create an inhospitable climate for immigrants already living in California.

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (c 37), known as the CRoW Act is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament affecting England and Wales which came into force on 30 November 2000.

Customary land

Customary land is land which is owned by indigenous communities and administered in accordance with their customs, as opposed to statutory tenure usually introduced during the colonial periods. Common ownership is one form of customary land ownership.

Since the late 20th century, statutory recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights continues to be a major challenge. The gap between formally recognized and customarily held and managed land is a significant source of underdevelopment, conflict, and environmental degradation.In the Malawi Land Act of 1965, "Customary Land" is defined as "all land which is held, occupied or used under customary law, but does not include any public land". In most countries of the Pacific islands, customary land remains the dominant land tenure form. Distinct customary systems of tenure have evolved on different islands and areas within the Pacific region. In any country there may be many different types of customary tenure.The amount of customary land ownership out of the total land area of Pacific island nations is the following: 97% in Papua New Guinea, 90% in Vanuatu, 88% in Fiji, 87% in the Solomon Islands, and 81% in Samoa.

English land law

English land law is the law of real property in England and Wales. Because of its heavy historical and social significance, land is usually seen as the most important part of English property law. Ownership of land has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon system of Bookland and in the Anglo-Saxon multiple estate, a feudal system transformed by William the Conqueror and his influx of many new chief landlords after 1066. The modern law's sources derive from the old courts of common law and equity which includes legislation such as the Law of Property Act 1925, the Settled Land Act 1925, the Land Charges Act 1972, the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and the Land Registration Act 2002, and the European Convention on Human Rights. At its core, English land law involves the acquisition, content and priority of rights and obligations among people with interests in land. Having a property right in land, as opposed to a contractual or some other personal right, matters because it creates privileges over other people's claims, particularly if the land is sold on, the possessor goes insolvent, or when claiming various remedies, like specific performance, in court. Capital taxation, the industrial revolution and reform of the established church has resulted in a shift from predominant ownership by the church and landed gentry (from lords of the manor to royalty) to largely agricultural, minority aristocratic ownership. This means today sites for development (land and buildings) belong to a complex web of owners able meet market demand-side forces for development, tempered by supply-side forces including the values enshrined in public planning policy to protect green spaces and promote sustainable (in terms of the economy and environment), locally diverse and socially useful development of land.

The traditional content of English land law relates to property rights that derive from common law, equity and the registration system. Ordinarily, ownership of land is acquired by a contract of sale, and to complete a purchase, the buyer must formally register their interest with HM Land Registry. Similar systems run in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Around 15 per cent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered, most of which is agricultural, has property disputes determined by the courts. Human rights, like the right to a family life and home under ECHR article 8 and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions, under article 1 of the First Protocol, apply for everyone. Aside from sale contracts, people may acquire interests in land through contributions to a home's purchase price, or to family life, if the courts can find evidence of a common intention or legally implied expectation, such as in marriage. The law acknowledges a "resulting" or "constructive trust" over the property, and in recognition of people's social interests in their homes; as with a lease under 7 years length, these do not need to be registered. Third, people can acquire land through proprietary estoppel. If someone is given an assurance that they will receive property, and they rely on this to their detriment, a court may acknowledge it. Fourth, adverse possession allows people who openly possess land, without formal objection by the owner for at least 12 years, to take registered title – in registered land this can no longer affect significant pieces of inhabited land.

Many people can share an interest in land, with up to four registered owners, and any number of underlying owners. The freehold of all land may have one owner, a "freeholder" or many. It can be used in many ways. The law closely regulates how and when joint owners may sever or sell their share. Leases, and to some degree licenses, allocate the use of land to new owners for a period of time. Mortgages and other forms of security interest are usually used to give moneylenders the right to seize property in the event that the debtor does not repay a legally related loan. Easements (such as the grant of a right of way) and covenants (such as an agreement that a freeholder will prevent certain building on the land) involve rights and duties to be applied between neighbours and may or may not bind later owners ("successors in title").

Inclosure Acts

The Inclosure Acts were a series of Acts of Parliament that empowered enclosure of open fields and common land in England and Wales, creating legal property rights to land that was previously held in common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure acts were passed, covering 6.8 million acres (2,800,000 ha; 28,000 km2).

Indigenous land rights

Indigenous land rights are the rights of indigenous peoples to land, either individually or collectively. Land and resource-related rights are of fundamental importance to indigenous peoples for a range of reasons, including: the religious significance of the land, self-determination, identity, and economic factors. Land is a major economic asset. The majority of indigenous peoples living in forest areas depend on the natural resources of their lands to fulfill their subsistence needs. Hunting, fishing, gathering of forest products, and small garden plots still form the basis of their household economy. The security and permanence of their control and use of the natural resource base is actually more important to most indigenous groups than direct ownership of the land itself. The demand for ownership, in fact, derives from the need to ensure their access to these resources, so it is of particular importance to examine how the different national-level legal regimes handle this aspect of indigenous ownership. Land is also an important instrument of inheritance and it is a symbol of social status. The land is essential for people’s spiritual development. The land is sacred and everything they get from the land is a gift from their gods. Losing their land means a loss of contact with the earth and a loss of identity. Land is not only an asset with economic and financial value, but also a very important part of people's lives, worldviews and belief systems.

Indigenous land claims have been addressed, with varying degrees of success on the national and international level, since colonization. Such claims may be based upon the principles of international law, treaties, common law, or domestic constitutions or legislation. Statutory recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights continues to be a major challenge, with the gap between formally recognized and customarily held and managed land is a significant source of underdevelopment, conflict, and environmental degradation.

Land grant

A land grant is a grant of land – held by a government to hold until the land it granted to a person. The United States historically gave out numerous land grants to people desiring farmland. The American Industrial Revolution was guided by many supportive acts of legislatures (for example, the Main Line of Public Works legislation of 1826) promoting commerce or transportation infrastructure development by private companies, such as the Cumberland Road turnpike, the Lehigh Canal, the Schuylkill Canal, and the many railroads that tied the young United States together.

Law of Thailand

The laws of Thailand are based on the civil law, but have been influenced by common law (see also world legal systems).

Proprietary colony

A proprietary colony was a type of British colony mostly in North America and the Caribbean in the 17th century. In the British Empire, all land belonged to the ruler, and it was his prerogative to divide. Therefore, all colonial properties were partitioned by royal charter into one of four types: proprietary, royal, joint stock, or covenant. King Charles II used the proprietary solution to reward allies and focus his own attention on Britain itself. He offered his friends colonial charters which facilitated private investment and colonial self-government. The charters made the proprietor the effective ruler, albeit one ultimately responsible to English Law and the King. Charles II gave New Netherland to his younger brother The Duke of York, who named it New York. He gave an area to William Penn who named it Pennsylvania.This type of indirect rule eventually fell out of favour as the colonies became established and administrative difficulties eased. The English sovereigns sought to concentrate their power and authority and the colonies were converted to Crown colonies, i.e. governed by officials appointed by the King, replacing the people the King had previously appointed and under different terms.

Public land

In all modern states, some land is held by central or local governments. This is called public land. The system of tenure of public land, and the terminology used, varies between countries. The following examples illustrate some of the range.

Ranchos of California

The Spanish and later Mexican governments encouraged settlement of the coastal region of Alta California (now known as California) by giving prominent men large land grants called ranchos, usually two or more square leagues, or 35 square kilometres (14 sq mi). Land-grant titles (concessions) were government-issued, permanent, unencumbered property-ownership rights to land called ranchos. The ranchos encompassed virtually all of the most valuable land near the coast, around San Francisco Bay, and inland along the Sacramento River and nearby lands in the Central Valley.

Devoted to raising cattle and sheep, the owners of the ranchos attempted to pattern themselves after the landed gentry of Spain. Their workers included Native Americans who had learned to speak Spanish, many of them former Mission residents.

Spain made about 30 grants between 1784 and 1821, and Mexico granted about 270 more between 1833 and 1846. The ranchos established land-use patterns and place names that are still in use in California today. Rancho boundaries became the basis for California's land survey system, and are found on modern maps and land titles.

Ranchos were partially based on geography, such as access to river water. Land development in the 20th and 21st century often follow the boundaries of the ranchos, and often retain the original name. For example, "Rancho San Diego," an unincorporated "rural-burb" east of San Diego, or "Rancho Bernardo", a masterplan suburb in the city of San Diego.

Real estate in the United Kingdom

Real estate is a significant feature of the economy of the United Kingdom, and regulated according to Scottish and English land law. The real estate market in the United Kingdom is the largest or second-largest in Europe (after Germany) depending on the method of measurement. The commercial real estate market in the UK has a market size of around 250 billion euros. Domestic real estate represented the largest non-financial asset in the UK, with a net worth of £5.1 trillion (2014). Foreign investment plays a substantial role in the UK's real estate market, particularly in London, and foreign companies and individuals invested around £20 billion in UK real estate in 2012.

Scots property law

Scots property law governs the rules of property in Scotland. A fundamental distinction in Scots law is between heritable and moveable property. Heritable property includes land and buildings, whereas moveable property includes property which can actually be physically moved, which would normally pass only on delivery. Moveable rights also include those to intellectual property, such as patents, trade marks and copyrights. Agreement on an offer for property purchase is a legally binding contract, resulting in a system of conveyancing where buyers get their survey done before making a bid to the seller's solicitor, and after a closing date for bids the seller's acceptance is binding on both parties, preventing gazumping. In recent times sales of house by way of offering to sell to the first party to make an unconditional offer of a fixed price has eroded the traditional offers over system. It is important historically because the feu was first created in Scotland, which is an antecedent of the fee system, used in conveyancing throughout the common law system.

Town and country planning in the United Kingdom

Town and country planning in the United Kingdom is the part of English land law which concerns land use planning. Its goal is to ensure sustainable economic development and a better environment. Each country of the United Kingdom has its own planning system that is responsible for town and country planning devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is an agency of the US Federal Government within the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."

Among the responsibilities of the FWS are enforcing federal wildlife laws; protecting endangered species; managing migratory birds; restoring nationally significant fisheries; conserving and restoring wildlife habitat, such as wetlands; helping foreign governments with their international conservation efforts; and distributing money to states' fish and wildlife agencies through the Wildlife Sport Fish and Restoration Program.Sub-units of the FWS include:

National Wildlife Refuge System—560 National Wildlife Refuges and thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas covering over 150 million acres (607,000 km²)

Division of Migratory Bird Management

Federal Duck Stamp

National Fish Hatchery System—70 National Fish Hatcheries and 65 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices

Endangered Species program—86 Ecological Services Field Stations

International Affairs Program

National Conservation Training Center

USFWS Office of Law Enforcement

Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory

Landscape Conservation CooperativesThe vast majority of fish and wildlife habitat is on non-federal state or private land. Therefore, the FWS works closely with private groups such as Partners in Flight and Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council to promote voluntary habitat conservation and restoration.

The FWS employs approximately 9,000 people and is organized into a central administrative office in Falls Church, Virginia, eight regional offices, and nearly 700 field offices distributed throughout the United States.

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