U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Improves Customer Experience, Releases First Fully Digitized Permit Application Forms

Starting today a variety of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit applicants will benefit from an enhancement to ePermits, the agency’s electronic permits system, as five frequently used permit application forms for export and import of wildlife have now been fully digitized. American ginseng exporters, biomedical companies, and horticultural companies that request permits authorized under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are among the beneficiaries of this enhancement to the ePermits­ system. CITES entered into force in 1975 and became the only treaty to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild.

The Service made these improvements to benefit the American public and the agency as part of the U.S. government’s broader effort to transform federal customer service and build trust. An Executive Order issued in December of 2021 described the president’s goal to deliver modern services to the public using technology so that it reduces the burden and amount of time people need to spend to access government resources, authorizations, and programs, describing these inefficiencies as a “time tax.” The Order specified that digitizing five international permit application forms should be part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s commitment to achieving this goal, in addition to redesigning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

Previously, individuals and businesses applying for permits could store basic information in the ePermits system including their names, contact information,key representatives, and the species and quantity of wildlife included in their requests. However, for the specific questions that made each application form unique, they needed to upload their answers separately as a fillable PDF. For each application this set of unique questions is labeled as “Section E” on the application forms.  

The five permit application forms that have been digitized are used for a variety of purposes. For example, exporters of the native U.S. plant American ginseng who are seeking to make multiple commercial shipments can now apply using a fully digitized processThe root of American ginseng is valued for its medical properties and became one of North America's first international export commodities in the early 1700s. Due to concerns of overharvest for international trade, American ginseng is now a CITES-protected species. The other digitized application forms are used for frequently requested permits that authorize export and re-export of biomedical samples from protected species, export of captive born samples, parts, or live animals of non-native species such as exotic reptiles and birds, re-exports of wildlife, and exports of plants such as orchids and cacti that are protected under CITES.

ePermits launched in October of 2020 and provides a platform for users to access 82 application forms and view the status of their issued permits. Creating efficiencies for the American public through collection of feedback from system users guides efforts to continuously improve to the system. Permits balance use and conservation of protected plant and animal species. They are authorized under numerous wildlife conservation laws, including CITES, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Endangered Species Act.