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.
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.
It is NPS policy to encourage the collocation of new utilities on existing structures, towers, or poles whenever possible. If you propose to collocate, your application should include written permission from the structure owner agreeing to allow you to collocate.
SF-299 is the application form used to apply to the NPS for a ROW permit. Submit a completed SF-299 application form, the nonrefundable application fee to cover cost reimbursement, and other requirements discussed at your pre-application meeting. Additional requirements may include required permits or licenses, such as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license for a telecommunications site. The application package should be sent to the park superintendent of the park where the right of way is proposed.
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.
Depending on your ROW permit application and proposed activities, the NPS may request that you also submit an application for a temporary construction permit. If you are proposing new construction, discuss this option with the park at your pre-application meeting. The request for a construction permit may require additional environmental or cultural analysis and take additional processing time. The bottom line is to plan ahead and, if there is a possibility that you might need extra construction width or space, identify it in the initial ROW application.
Once you have filed an application, park staff will review it to make sure all necessary information is included. The request is then evaluated by park staff 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:
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: February 11, 2021