Climate Change—Legal Instruments

The NPS Geologic Resources Division developed this article as part of a series to summarize laws, regulations, and policies that specifically apply to NPS minerals and geologic resources. The table below does not include laws of general application (e.g., Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, or National Historic Preservation Act). Also, the table does include the NPS Organic Act when it serves as the main authority for protection of a particular resource or when other, more specific laws are not available. Information is current as of December 2018. Contact the NPS Geologic Resources Division for detailed guidance.

Climate Change

Resource-specific Laws


Secretarial Order 3289

(Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America’s Water, Land, and Other Natural and Cultural Resources) (2009)
requires DOI bureaus and offices to incorporate climate change impacts into long-range planning; and establishes DOI regional climate change response centers and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to better integrate science and management to address climate change and other landscape scale issues.

Executive Order 13693

(Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade) (2015)
established to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Resource-specific Regulations


No applicable regulations, although the following NPS guidance should be considered:

Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook (Beavers et al. 2016)

provides strategies and decisionmaking frameworks to support adaptation of natural and cultural resources to climate change.

Climate Change Facility Adaptation Planning and Implementation Framework:

The NPS Sustainable Operations and Climate Change Branch is developing a plan to incorporate vulnerability to climate change (Beavers et al. 2016b).

NPS Climate Change Response Strategy (2010)

describes goals and objectives to guide NPS actions under four integrated components: Science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication.

Policy Memo 12-02

(Applying National Park Service Management Policies in the Context of Climate Change) (2012)
applies considerations of climate change to the impairment prohibition and to maintaining “natural conditions”.

Policy Memo 14-02

(Climate Change and Stewardship of Cultural Resources) (2014)
provides guidance and direction regarding the stewardship of cultural resources in relation to climate change.

Policy Memo 15-01

(Climate Change and Natural Hazards for Facilities) (2015)
provides guidance on the design of facilities to incorporate impacts of climate change adaptation and natural hazards when making decisions in national parks.

DOI Manual Part 523, Chapter 1

establishes policy and provides guidance for addressing climate change impacts upon the Department’s mission, programs, operations, and personnel.

Revisiting Leopold: Resource Stewardship in the National Parks (2012)

will guide US National Park natural and cultural resource management into a second century of continuous change, including climate change.

Climate Change Action Plan (2012)

articulates a set of high-priority no-regrets actions the NPS will undertake over the next few years

Green Parks Plan (2013)

is a long-term strategic plan for sustainable management of NPS operations.

2006 Management Policies


Section 4.1

requires NPS to investigate the possibility to restore natural ecosystem functioning that has been disrupted by past or ongoing human activities. This would
include climate change, as put forth by Beavers et al. (2016).

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Last updated: October 9, 2019