Upland and Fluvial Processes—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.

Upland and Fluvial Processes

Resource-specific Laws

Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, 33 USC § 403

prohibits the construction of any obstruction on the waters of the United States not authorized by congress or approved by the USACE.

Clean Water Act 33 USC § 1342

requires a permit from the USACE prior to any discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters (waters of the US [including streams]).

Executive Order 11988

requires federal agencies to avoid adverse impacts to floodplains. (see also D.O. 77-2)

Executive Order 11990

requires plans for potentially affected wetlands (including riparian wetlands). (see also D.O. 77-1)

Resource-specific Regulations

None applicable.

2006 Management Policies

Section 4.1

requires NPS to manage natural resources to preserve fundamental physical and biological processes, as well as individual species, features, and plant and animal communities; maintain all components and processes of naturally evolving park ecosystems.

Section 4.1.5

directs the NPS to re-establish natural functions and processes in human-disturbed components of natural systems in parks, unless directed otherwise by


directs the NPS to allow natural recovery of landscapes disturbed by natural phenomena, unless manipulation of the landscape is necessary to protect park
development or human safety.

Section 4.6.4

directs the NPS to (1) manage for the preservation of floodplain values; [and] (2) minimize potentially hazardous conditions associated with flooding.

Section 4.6.6

directs the NPS to manage watersheds as complete hydrologic systems and minimize human-caused disturbance to the natural upland processes that deliver water, sediment, and woody debris to streams.

Section 4.8.1

directs the NPS to allow natural geologic processes to proceed unimpeded. Geologic processes…include…erosion and sedimentation…processes.

Section 4.8.2

directs the NPS to protect geologic features from the unacceptable impacts of human activity while allowing natural processes to continue.

Related Links

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

Last updated: January 2, 2024