A right of way (ROW) is a permit issued by the National Park Service (NPS) that allows a utility to pass over, under, or through NPS property. The permit may be issued only pursuant to specific statutory authority and generally if there is no practicable alternative to the use of NPS lands, regardless of whether the equipment is serving the NPS and its visitors or crossing the park to reach other communities. You need a ROW permit any time you want to build or install a utility on NPS lands. Projects could include electrical transmission lines, telephone lines, canals, and sewer lines. Broadband equipment, such as telecommunication sites, microwave, and fiber optic, requires a ROW permit as well.
If your request is approved, you will be issued a ROW permit. The permit does not give you an estate in fee, limited estate, or any property interest or ownership in the land. Your permit is not exclusive, and the park reserves the right to allow visitor use of the land where appropriate.
The authorities authorizing the use of NPS lands for rights of way are found at 54 USC 100902. Note that the NPS does not have the general authority to issue permits for roads or oil or gas pipelines.
Contact the NPS superintendent who has responsibility for the land where you propose to install the utility.
Arrange a pre-application meeting with the park superintendent and appropriate staff to review the proposal and application requirements. There may be specific application requirements for your right of way.
Complete the application, including all necessary information. Mail or deliver the application to the park superintendent along with the nonrefundable application fee, which reimburses the NPS for the preliminary costs of processing your request.
Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the application process. A minimum of 6 months is needed to process a ROW permit request. If environmental and cultural compliance analysis needs to be completed, the time needed could be significantly longer.
Early consultation with park management where the right of way is proposed is strongly recommended. A potential applicant should contact the park superintendent and request a meeting to discuss the proposed project before the submission of the written application. Early consultation, while not ensuring the approval of the request, allows for the early exchange of information that may result in better prepared applications and timelier processing. You should bring with you information about your proposed project, including a map of the project area. At the pre-application meeting the superintendent will provide you with information about application forms and procedures, required environmental and historic analysis, fees, cost reimbursement, and other issues. Early and frequent consultation with the park superintendent and staff is essential.
If you are not sure whether your proposed utility crosses NPS land, the best place to start is www.nps.gov. Visit Find a Park to locate the park of interest.
Application and processing fees: These charges reimburse the NPS for the administrative and other costs incurred in processing your request. Your application must be accompanied by the initial application charge. At that time you may request an estimate of further costs and a payment schedule. The park may decide to have an independent contractor conduct necessary environmental and historic compliance analysis. In that case you will be required to make payments directly to the contractor. Charges may also include the cost of monitoring the construction or installation of your utility should your request for a ROW permit be approved. These fees are non-refundable, since they reimburse the NPS for work performed.
Monitoring fee: If your request for a ROW permit is granted, you will be responsible for reimbursing the NPS for monitoring your compliance with the terms and conditions of the ROW permit. This fee is non-refundable and may be paid annually or as arranged with the park staff.
Use and occupancy fee: This charge is an annual rental based on the market value of the rights authorized and is generally established by an appraisal. The rent may be paid annually or on a schedule as specified in the permit.
Exemptions to the requirements to pay any of the above fees may apply and should be discussed with the park superintendent at the pre-application meeting.
Once you have filed an application, the NPS will review it to make sure all necessary information is included. The request is then evaluated to determine the possibility of impacts caused by the activity on the natural and cultural resources of the park as well as on the visitor experience.
A ROW permit request may be denied for any number of reasons, such as:
There is no legal authority for the proposed request.
The proposal is inconsistent for the purposes for which the park was established.
- The requested location was in a proposed or designated wilderness area.
- There is a practicable alternative.
The request would result in unacceptable impacts to park resources or values that cannot be mitigated.
If you accept the ROW permit, you must agree that the permit is issued upon the express condition that you will indemnify and hold harmless the United States for any liabilities and all claims for damages from any cause during the term of the permit occasioned by the occupancy or use of the right of way.
You will be required to obtain liability insurance, naming the United States as also insured. You may also be required to post a performance bond to ensure adherence to the terms and conditions of the permit.
Last updated: January 19, 2021