Geothermal—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 2023. Contact the NPS Geologic Resources Division for detailed guidance.


Resource-specific Laws

Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, 30 USC. § 1001

et seq. as amended in 1988 states:

  • No geothermal leasing is allowed in parks.
  • “Significant” thermal features exist in 16 park units (the features listed by the NPS at 52 Fed. Reg. 28793-28800 (August 3, 1987), plus the thermal features in Crater Lake, Big Bend, and Lake Mead).
  • NPS is required to monitor those features.
  • Based on scientific evidence, Secretary of Interior must protect significant NPS thermal features from leasing effects.

Geothermal Steam Act Amendments of 1988, Public Law 100--443

prohibits geothermal leasing in the Island Park known geothermal resource area near Yellowstone and outside 16 designated NPS units if subsequent geothermal development would significantly adversely affect identified thermal features.

Resource-specific Regulations

43 CFR Part 3200

These regulations require BLM to include stipulations when issuing, extending, renewing, or modifying leases or permits to protect significant thermal features in NPS-administered areas (see 43 CFR §3201.10), prohibit the bureau from issuing leases in areas where geothermal operations are reasonably likely to result in significant adverse effects on significant thermal features in NPS-administered areas (see 43 CFR §3201.11 and §3206.11), and prohibit BLM from issuing leases in park units.

2006 Management Policies


requires NPS to:

  • Preserve/maintain integrity of all thermal resources in parks.
  • Work closely with outside agencies.
  • Monitor significant thermal features.

Related Links

Part of a series of articles titled Geology & Minerals—Resource Laws, Regulations, and Policies.

Last updated: January 2, 2024