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NPS Archeology Guide > Archeological Permits > 2. Information for Applicants

Information for Applicants

This section of the Permit guidance describes the application process for a Permit for Archeological Investigations (“Permit”) and the applicant’s responsibilities. The applicant is advised to read all of this section, as well as the overview, prior to preparing a Permit application.

A Permit is required for any archeological investigation carried out on parklands by non-NPS personnel, unless carried out under a contract or a cooperative agreement specifically written for investigation. Permits are issued under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) or the Antiquities Act of 1906 or both.

A Permit is a legal document that defines the scope and methodology of the permitted archeological work and specifies the conditions for suspending the project. Thus, a Permit can be, and is, used in court to establish elements of cultural resource laws violations, should they occur.

When individuals conduct archeological activities or otherwise disturb archeological resources on NPS lands without a valid Permit, they are in violation of ARPA (16 U.S.C. 470ee, ff, gg), the Antiquities Act (16 USC 433), and other statutes concerning federal or federally-controlled property. They are subject to criminal and/or civil penalties, as well as forfeiture of personal property and looted artifacts. ARPA and its regulations detail the requirements for obtaining a Permit.

Individuals, academic institutions, and businesses that are proposing to conduct archeological field investigations on parklands must first apply for and obtain a Permit.

The NPS web site provides contact information for national parks and national park staff.

Applicants: Applying for a Permit

It is important that Permit applicants contact the park manager where they propose to carry out the archeological investigations with a preliminary proposal to determine whether the project is appropriate, and to determine which permits they need. If a project will impact an archeological resource listed or eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, then compliance with specific provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 106, and/or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), (specifically, an Environmental Assessment) is also required.

Park managers may direct the applicant to discuss the proposed work with park staff, particularly the park archeologist or the cultural resource manager, or other NPS archeologists. NPS will not grant a Permit for a larger area than the applicants can reasonably be expected to explore fully and systematically within the time period established in the Permit (16 U.S.C. 470cc). Projects do not exceed three years in duration ; multi-year projects are reviewed annually (43 CFR 7.9(g).

If the proposed area of study includes public lands managed by other federal agencies, or state, local, or tribal lands that are managed by the NPS, additional permits may be necessary. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain any authorizations necessary to carry out archeological investigations on these lands in writing, and to submit a copy of the authorization with the project proposal to the NPS.

Applicants should also discuss curation of archeological collections resulting from the proposed project with park personnel. If the park does not have facilities for appropriate storage of archeological materials, alternate curatorial facilities must be approved by the park manager. The applicant will work closely with the curatorial staff to ensure that any collections resulting from the archeological investigations are entered in the NPS cataloging system, ICMS, in a timely manner. Special conditions pertaining to curation of objects and associated records may be attached to the issued Permit.

Applicants' Permit Responsibilities

Applicants must take permit requirements and conditions into account when planning the scope of work and budget of a proposed project.

Individuals and organizations who obtain a Permit to work on parklands must meet the following requirements:

The successful applicant must adhere to the standard conditions of the Permit and any special conditions specified by the park where the project is to take place. The successful candidate must also agree to the following conditions:

Preparing a Permit Application

Applicants should submit a Permit Application (DI Form 1926) (The permit application form is available in Word format) to the manager of the park in which they propose to work; or to the regional director, with a copy to the park manager.

The required elements for a Permit application are found under 43 CFR 7.6 (b, c). In general, an application requires the following information:

Additional guidance on planning an archeological project on federal parklands can be found in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation.

Submitting a Permit Application

Applications for a Permit must be submitted at least 60 business days before field activities are proposed to begin. Send two copies of the complete proposal and all attachments to the office designated by the NPS regional director and a copy to the park manager. Regional office addresses are available on the NPS web site or from the NPS Public Affairs Office, 1849 C Street, NW, Room 7012, Washington, DC 20240, telephone (202) 208-4747.

Applicants: Review of Your Application

The decision to issue a Permit is made by the regional director for the national park in which the project is to be conducted. The Permit may be denied if the application does not meet Permit requirements. (See 43 CFR 7.8 Issuance of Permits).

Before issuing a Permit, the regional director verifies that:

If the archeological project is anticipated to impact a site that is listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Sites or if the project involves archeological excavations, compliance with Section 106 of NHPA or NEPA is needed. The park manager will consult with the appropriate historic preservation officer about required compliance. If compliance procedures are required, the applicant will be requested to prepare background documentation.

If necessary, the regional director notifies the leadership of affected Indian tribes of possible harm to, or destruction of, sites having religious or cultural importance. Tribes have 30 days to respond to the notification (43 CFR 7.7). Depending on the response, further consultation may be required that may affect the timing and conditions of the issuance of the Permit.

The regional director has 60 days to review a Permit application. If the application does not meet qualifications and standards for issuing a Permit for Archeological Investigations, the regional director must deny the application for a Permit in writing. Depending on the nature of the denial, such as a conflict with other events in the park, or because of an incomplete application, the regional director may invite the applicant to submit a revised proposal. If the proposal conflicts with the park’s management plan, the regional director will not encourage the applicant to re-submit an application. The regional director must send copies of all letters to the applicant to the park manager.

Permittees who have failed to meet the conditions of a previous Permit, such as failure to submit preliminary, annual, or final reports; failure to deliver archeological collections to repositories; or failure to deliver electronic data will not be issued additional Permits until the conditions of the previous Permit are met.

Applicants: Receiving a Permit

If the application for a Permit is approved, the regional director or the regional director’s designee sends a copy of the Permit to the applicant, and a copy of the Permit to the park Manager.

The Permit specifies the nature and condition of the work, based, in part, on the information submitted in the application. The investigator should check the Permit for accuracy. The Permit will include:

The Permit will stipulate:

Applicants: Other NPS Permits that May be Needed

After a Permit to conduct archeological investigations is issued, the park manager may still require additional permits before fieldwork may begin. The applicant should check with the park manager for guidance on other permits that may be needed. Examples of additional permits that may be required include:

Applicants: Conducting Archeological Investigations on National Parklands

Initiation of the fieldwork signifies the applicant’s acceptance of Permit conditions (43 CFR 7.9 [a] 4 [d, e, f]). The Permit is a binding contract; the permittee will not be released from this contract until all obligations are satisfied, even if the time period of the Permit has expired.

Archeological fieldwork on national parklands must be conducted only in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the Permit. The Permit should be kept secure. A copy must be kept on site and shown to NPS staff when requested.

If new sites are discovered, the permittee must gather appropriate data for inclusion in ASMIS in order to create a complete, accurate, and reliable site record. The permittee must provide information for the required fields in ASMIS that are obtainable in the field, e.g., Site Discovery date; Site type; Site Condition Assessment and Date; Depositional Integrity Assessment and Date; Site Disturbance Severity Level; Threat and Disturbance Types and related information; Site Area; locational information, preferably GPS for maximum accuracy; General Time Period; and Cultural History. The permittee must be familiar with each of the ASMIS fields and the definitions for all values as provided in the most recent ASMIS Data Dictionary. The permittee must use the site form provided by the park or other NPS archeologist to document the pertinent information. The permittee must enter the data into a copy of the ASMIS database structure, if so required in the Permit conditions.

If existing sites are visited, the permittee must gather appropriate data for updating the existing site record in ASMIS in order to maintain its completeness, accuracy, and reliability. In particular, a reassessment of the site condition, depositional integrity, site disturbance severity level, and threat and disturbance types, and site area must be provided. Updated locational information, preferably by GPS for maximum accuracy, also must be provided.

If archeological materials are to be removed from the park at the completion of the field phase of the project, the permittee must obtain a loan agreement receipt for property from the park curator (or designee) acknowledging possession of federally-owned or administered property that must be returned to the park or to the curatorial facility after analysis and the report are complete.

Applicants: Discovery of Human Remains

Any time that human remains are discovered, either during excavation or survey, the plan developed by the park to respond to these circumstances is followed. If no plan exists, the permittee ceases all work, secures the area, and immediately notifies the park manager of the discovery. Work stoppage is specific to the area where the human remains are encountered.

Native American Human Remains

If excavation of Native American human remains during the permitted project was anticipated, the permittee will follow the procedures in the written Plan for Intentional Excavation of Native American Human Remains provided in the Permit. Project work may continue in accordance with the written programmatic plan previously formulated by the park unit in consultation with Native American tribes and made a part of the conditions of the Permit.

If the discovery of Native American human remains during the permitted project was not anticipated, the permittee will follow procedures in the Plan for Unanticipated Discovery of Native American Human Remains provided in the Permit.

In the absence of a programmatic plan, permitted activities may be resumed 30 days after tribes have been notified (25 U.S.C. 3002(d)). During the 30 day work stoppage, permittees should coordinate their activities with NPS in order to avoid harm to Native American human remains and other cultural items that are protected under NAGPRA (25 U.S.C.3001, Definitions).

If, as part of an excavation or inadvertent discovery, Native American human remains or NAGPRA-related items are disinterred, scientific archeological methods, techniques, analyses, and reports are conducted as required by ARPA and Section 3 of NAGPRA (NPS Cultural Resource Management Guideline, Appendix R).

Non-Native American Human Remains

If the human remains are determined to be non-Native American, NAGPRA does not apply. In that case, the park manager will confer with law enforcement officials, the county or state coroner, and/or the medical examiner to determine the appropriate course of action. As the location of the human remains is a potential crime scene, the permittee ceases all work immediately upon discovery, and does not begin work again until notified by the park manager.

Applicants: NPS Inspections

The regional director is responsible for ensuring that inspections occur during the field and laboratory phases of a permitted project to determine whether the project is in compliance with stipulations of the Permit. These inspections are conducted by NPS archeologists. During the inspection, the NPS archeologist and, if feasible, by the NPS curator, verifies that:

The appointed NPS archeologist or curator should also monitor project-related laboratory activities. Laboratory inspection includes verification that all of the NPS standards for collections management outlined in Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections (36 CFR Part 79) and the NPS Museum Handbook, and other NPS region-specific guidelines are met to ensure proper management and security of the collection.

Applicants: Preparing Reports and Products

Results of archeological investigations on parklands must be accessible to a broad range of users, including federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, the professional community, and the general public. Results must be communicated in reports that summarize the objectives, methods, techniques, and results. Information relating to curation, such as any on-site conservation of items, ICMS catalog records, name of the curatorial repository, and collection accession numbers should also be included in the final report in order that additional detailed information can be obtained, if necessary. Information about specific site locations and other site information that would endanger the integrity of the archeological resource, if generally available, should be reported in a manner that allows the park manager to withhold that information.

The regional director and park manager are responsible for approving all deliverables for conformance with the Permit terms and conditions. Typically, the technical review is carried out by NPS archeologists and other experts, who review reports for clarity, proof of fulfillment of the conditions of the Permit, completion of any regulatory requirements, and results, and who make recommendations to the regional director about accepting the report. Reports should be a clean, edited document, and must be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation.

Any comments or requests for revision will be communicated to the permittee in writing and in a timely manner. Upon completion of the project and after all reports and/or products, such as field forms, ASMIS site records, or the field data to create ASMIS site records, have been submitted and accepted, the regional director sends a letter to the applicant and park manager stating that the conditions of the Permit have been met.

Preparation of a Preliminary Report

Within six weeks of completion of the field component of the project, the permittee must submit a preliminary report to the regional director. The report should describe the fieldwork, including accomplishments, methods used to accomplish the work, names of individuals that carried out the fieldwork, maps, any GPS data, completed ASMIS forms for any newly recorded archeological sites, and any professional recommendations.

When a fieldwork episode involved only minor work and/or minor findings, a final report may be submitted in place of the preliminary report.

Preparation of an Annual Report

In the event that the Permit extends for more than one year, the NPS requires an annual progress report by the permittee. The report must detail the extent of work accomplished to date, and how much work remains to be carried out. The Permit will be reviewed on a yearly basis following the submission of the annual report to ensure that the project is meeting deadlines and goals (43 CFR 7.9(g)).

Preparation of the Final Report

Standard permit conditions require that, within six months of completion of the field component of the project, the permittee must submit a final report for review by the regional director. The applicant is advised to submit a draft report ahead of time, and allow time for revisions based on reviews by NPS personnel. If analysis is expected to take longer than six months, the regional director may authorize an extension for submission of the final report.

The final report must be consistent with information in field notes, photographs, and other materials (see the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeological Documentation and 36 CFR 79 for additional guidance) and include:

If the actual methods differed from those proposed, the reasons for these differences should be included in the report.

The final report is a public document and cannot be copyrighted. Information compiled in the final report may be used by the NPS for cultural resource management purposes. Information collected during the research project may be used by permittees in other publications that can be copyrighted. However, the permittee must not publish, without the prior permission of the regional director, any locational or other identifying archeological site information that could compromise the government's protection and management of archeological sites (Permit, Standard Permit Conditions 15.x).

Artifact and Document Storage

Artifacts and records from the archeological investigations on federally owned parklands are the property of the United States (43 CFR 7.8). Material remains and associated records must be delivered to the appropriate official of the institution responsible for curation no later than 90 days after the final report is submitted to the regional director (43 CFR 7.8.7).

Applicants: Amendment and Extension of Permits

Any significant change in the project after the issuance of the Permit, such as a change in the scope of the investigation, replacement of the Principal Investigator, or change in the curatorial facility, requires an amendment to the Permit. The permittee is responsible for notifying the regional director in writing of changes and for requesting amendments to the Permit. The permittee risks suspension or revocation of the original Permit as well as permission to carry out the project, if the regional director is not notified of changes and a Permit amendment is not issued.

When the terms of the fieldwork component of the Permit have been met and the permittee requests an extension of time, the Permit may be extended for proper cause. The request for an extension must be submitted to the regional director in writing and must include a detailed explanation for the failure to complete the project in the time allotted by the Permit. The regional director reviews the request. If an extension is approved, the regional director will issue an amended Permit with revised dates for project completion.

Applicants: Enforcement, Suspension, and Revocation of Permits

Regional directors are responsible for enforcing Permits and have the authority to suspend or terminate a Permit (for enforcement of Permits issued under ARPA, see 43 CFR 7.10, Suspension and Revocation of Permits). Regional directors rely on information provided to them by park managers and park staff, who have responsibility for monitoring cultural resource activities on parklands.

In the event of a suspension or revocation of a Permit, the regional director sends a notice to the permittee, stating the nature of and reason for suspension or revocation.

A Permit may be suspended by the regional director for the following reasons:

The project may continue when the terms of the Permit have been met or when the conflict has been resolved.

A Permit may be revoked by the regional director for the following reasons:

Applicants: Appeals, Reviews, and Disputes

Any affected person may request a review by the Department of the Interior Departmental Consulting Archeologist (DCA) of any professional issues involved in a bureau permitting decision, such as professional qualifications, research design, or other professional archeological matters. The DCA makes a final professional recommendation to the Director of the NPS to consider in making a final decision about the adjudication of the matter (43 CFR 7.36).

Any affected person, an applicant or permittee, may appeal a denial, modification, suspension, revocation, or the inclusion of specific terms and conditions of a Permit to the regional director. The disputant may appeal a regional director’s appeal decision to the Director of the NPS. (Further guidance on appeals and disputes may be found at 43 CFR 7.11 & 7.36 (a)-(c).)

The regional director’s decision shall stand during the appeals process. The NPS Director’s decision is the final administrative decision on appeals.