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NPS OIA Summaries of Basic Authorities

"The National Park Service must be a leader in local, national and international park affairs, actively pursuing the mission of the national park system and assisting others in managing their park resources and values." (Vail Agenda, 1991)

NPS Mission Statement

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

The National Park Service's legal authority to conduct programs for technical exchange and cooperation with other countries in park stewardship and management is derived in part from the following portions of International Conventions and Agreements and United States law:

1942 - Western Hemisphere Convention

The convention has provisions to establish a set of protected areas; national parks to provide recreational and educational facilities; strict wilderness areas to be maintained inviolate; co-operation in the field of research between governments; species listed in annex to enjoy special protection and controls to be imposed on trade in protected fauna and flora and any parts thereof

The Convention has been signed by 22 member countries of the Organization of American States and ratified by 19 member countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela.

1972 - World Heritage Convention

In 1972, 100 years after the creation of the world's first national park at Yellowstone, the United States proposed the World Heritage Convention to the international community and was the first nation to ratify it. The World Heritage Convention, the most widely accepted international conservation treaty in human history, is the American national park idea being carried out worldwide. As a member of the Convention, the United States has pledged to identify and protect its key natural and cultural sites as part of the heritage of humanity and to cooperate with other countries to achieve that goal.

The National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs plays a key role in the development of U.S. policy regarding both the domestic and international aspects of the World Heritage program.

1991 - U.S. & Canada Air Quality Agreement

In 1991, the U.S. and Canada entered into an agreement to address transboundary air pollution, whereby pollutants released at one location can travel long distances, affecting air quality at their sources, as well as many miles away. The 1991 Agreement led to reductions in acid rain in the 1990s, and was expanded in 2000 to reduce transboundary smog emissions under the Ozone Annex.

Numerous airborne contaminants, including heavy metals and both current-use and historic-use pesticides, have been detected in many national parks throughout the U.S. The NPS works with its counterparts in Canada to try and minimize the effects of these pollution's within each country's protected areas.

1916 - NPS Organic Act
(Public Law No. 235) - 64th Congress

Establishes the National Park Service (NPS) and assigns to it control of the National Parks and National Monuments previously established. Establishes a broad framework of policy for administration of these areas. Allows the NPS to provide citizens of other countries with information, advice, and literature to assist them in visiting units of the NPS system, as it does U.S. citizens under the authority of this act.

1940 - Travel Act
(Public Law No. 755) - 76th Congress

Charges the Secretary of the Interior, through the NPS, with the responsibility for encouraging travel within the United States, its territories, and possessions. In conjunction with said policy, the Act authorizes the Secretary to disseminate travel information, including graphic materials, in foreign languages.

1948 - U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948
(Public Law 402) - 80th Congress

Seeks to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Conveys to the Secretary of State broad powers to effectuate such policy, including the interchange on a reciprocal basis of persons, knowledge, and skills; assignment of specialists; and dissemination of information about the U.S. abroad.

1958 - Federal Employees International Organization Service Act
(Public Law 85-795)

Provides authority to the heads of federal agencies and commissions to enter into formal agreements with international organizations, of which the U.S. is a member for purposes of providing temporary or long term services of federal personnel. A Federal agency may detail for a period of not more than three years any employee to any international organization (i.e. UNESCO, UNEP, FAO, etc.) of which the U.S. is a member. During the period of the detail, the employee may continue to receive full compensation, allowances, and benefits from funds of the Federal agency from which he was detailed.

Upon completion of the detail, the employee will retain full re-employment rights to either his former position or to a position of like seniority, statue, and pay in the agency from which he was transferred (See memorandum of April 2, 1975, from Assistant Solicitor, Branch of National Parks, to Chief, Division of International Park Affairs, regarding detail of NPS personnel pursuant to Public Law 85-795).

1954 - Agricultural Trade and Development Act
(Public Law 83-480)

Authorizes the use of excess foreign currencies by Federal agencies to finance international, educational, and cultural exchange activities to collect, translate, and disseminate scientific and technological information; to conduct research and support scientific activities overseas; and to finance programs for the evaluation and acquisition of foreign books and other technical or scientific materials.

1961 - Foreign Assistance Act, and Subsequent Amendments
(Public Law 87-195)

Administration of this Act has been delegated to the Secretary of State by Executive Order 10973 (November 3, 1961, as amended) and is carried out by the Agency of International Development (AID). Authority is delegated to the NPS through formal agreements with AID.

Authorizes the employment or assignment of personnel to perform functions under the Foreign Assistance Act outside the United States by any agency of the U.S. Government. Under a general agreement between the Department of the Interior and AID, the Service may enter into special agreements with AID covering the services to be rendered. AID supplies the funds to cover the costs of each project.

Authorizes U.S. Government agencies to furnish services and commodities on an advance of funds or reimbursement basis to friendly nations, international organizations, and certain voluntary non-profit agencies. Requires a determination by the Administrator of AID that the requested services would be in furtherance of the Foreign Assistance Act before the Service can deal directly with the requesting organization. Once such determination is made, the Service can enter into an agreement with the requesting organization to perform the desired services and funds are furnished by the requesting organization.

1961 - Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act
(Public Law 87-256)

Purposes are to promote multi-cultural awareness and to improve the United States' image abroad through educational and cultural exchanges as well as through the translation and interchange of educational and research materials (See Title 22-Foreign Relations-Chapter 1-Part 63.2-Exchange in U.S. Visitor Program). The authority to provide exchange visitor programs in the U.S. has been delegated to the NPS by the State Department.

1970 - National Environmental Policy Act
(Public Law 91-190)

Declares as a national policy the promotion of efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere. In recognition of the worldwide nature of environmental problems, emphasizes international cooperation.

1983 - Endangered Species Act (as amended)
(Public Law 97-301)

Authorizes the use of foreign currencies accruing to the U.S. Government to assist foreign countries in the development and management of endangered species programs. Further authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, through the Secretary of State, to enter into bilateral or multi-lateral agreements with foreign countries to provide such conservation.

Directs the Secretary, through the NPS and Fish and Wildlife Service, to carry out actions to implement U.S. responsibilities under the Convention on Nature Protection in the Western Hemisphere.

Permits the Secretary of the Interior to assign employees to cooperate with foreign countries and international organizations to further such programs.

1980 - National Historic Preservation Act (as amended)
(Public Law 96-515)

Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to direct and coordinate U.S. participation in the World Heritage Convention including nomination of U.S. properties, their continued protection, and cooperation with other member nations. Authority is delegated to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Specific guidelines for NPS program support responsibilities have been provided by the Assistant Secretary (Part 73 of CFR 36).

1998 - National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act
(Public Law 105-203)

The Underground Railroad, which flourished from the end of the 18th century to the end of the Civil War, was one of the most significant expressions of the American civil rights movement during its evolution over more than three centuries. Portions of the text authorizes the NPS to work with Canada, Mexico, and relevant Caribbean countries on Underground Railroad projects.

2006 - Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership
(Public Law 109-338)

Establishes the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership in the States of Vermont and New York and recognizes the importance of the historical, cultural, and recreational resources of this area to the United States. Encourages these areas to collaborate with Canada and the Province of Quebec to interpret and promote the history of the Champlain Valley region.

NPS Policy Directives and Guidelines

1916 - Policy Directive on Administration of the National Park Service

In a letter from Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane to first NPS Director Stephan Mather, the Service is directed to maintain contacts with national park authorities in other nations and to stay informed on their developments in order to identify areas for improvements in the U.S. National Park System.

October 7, 1974 - International Park Activities

Memorandum form Associate Director, Legislation, to Deputy Director, National Park Service, suggesting as possible remedies for past deficiencies of international park affairs (1) reorganization of the Division of International Affairs (2) rotation of Division staff (3) reconstruction of Division personnel. (Approved 10/7/74 in principle.)

March 6, 1975 - Select Servicewide International Programs

Memorandum from Associate Director, Legislation, to Director, NPS, recommending consolidation of fiscal responsibility for those specific international activities deemed of Servicewide significance.

November, 2003 - NPS International Mission Statement

The National Park Service International Program promotes and facilitates collaboration in perserving and understanding natural and cultural heritage throughout the world.