National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Niobrara National Scenic River
214 W. U.S. Hwy 20 Valentine, NE 69201
Superintendent’s Compendium of Designations, Closures, Permit Requirements and Other Restrictions Imposed Under Discretionary Authority
/s/ Susan J. Cook, Acting Superintendent Date: 09/09/2021
1. Superintendent’s Compendium Described
The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations pertaining specifically to the administration of the park. The Superintendent’s Compendium does not repeat regulations found in 36 CFR and other United States Code and CFR Titles, which are enforced without further elaboration at the park level.
The regulations contained in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, are the basic mechanism used by the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of the park and to protect visitors and property within the park. Parts 1 through 6 are general regulations applicable to all areas of the National Park system, and Part 7 contains special regulations specific to individual parks. Each of these Parts has many sections and subsections articulating specific provisions. Within some of these Part 1-7 sections and subsections, the Superintendent is granted discretionary authority to develop local rules to be responsive to the needs of a specific park resource or activity, park plan, program, and/or special needs of the general public.
As an example, 36 CFR 1.5(a) Closures and Public Use Limits provides the Superintendent certain discretion in allowing or disallowing certain activities. The authority granted by the Section, however, requires the Superintendent to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (6 USC Section 551), which requires public notice on actions with major impact on visitor use patterns, park resources or those that are highly controversial in nature.
Another example is 36 CFR 1.6 Permits, which allows the Superintendent to require a permit for certain uses and activities in the park. This Section, however, requires that a list of activities needing a permit (and a fee schedule for the various types of permits) be maintained by the park.
A final example is 36 CFR 2.1(c) (1) Preservation of Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources, which provides the Superintendent the authority to designate certain fruits, nuts, berries or unoccupied seashells which may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption. This activity can occur, however, only if a written determination shows that the allowed activity does not adversely affect park wildlife, the reproductive potential of a plant species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.
This Compendium should be used in conjunction with Title 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, to more fully understand the regulations governing the use and enjoyment of all the areas of the national Park System.
2. Laws and Policies Allowing the Superintendent to Develop This Compendium
On December 2014, H.R. 1068 was signed into law (P.L. 113-287), which codifies National Park Law under the new Title 54. This bill repealed several previous laws, including the NPS Organic Act; is now found at 54 U.S.C. 100301.
The National Park Service (NPS) is granted broad statutory authority under Title 54 United States Code (U.S.C.) 100101 et.seq. (Organic Act of 1916, as amended) to “…regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purposes of the said parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment for future generations” In addition, the NPS Organic Act allows the NPS, through the Secretary of the Interior, to “prescribe such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary or proper for the use and management of System units.” (54 U.S.C. 100751).
In 1970, Congress amended the NPS Organic Act to clarify its intentions as to the overall mission of the NPS. Through the General Authorities Act of 1970 (54 U.S.C. 100101), Congress brought all areas administered by the NPS into one National Park System and directed the NPS to manage all areas under its administration consistent with the Organic Act of 1916.
In 1978, Congress amended the General Authorities Act of 1970 and reasserted System-wide the high standard of protection defined in the original Organic Act by stating “Congress reaffirms, declares, and directs that the promotion and regulation of the various System units shall be consistent with and founded in the purpose established by subsection (a), to the common benefit of all people of the United States.”
54 U.S.C. 100102 defines the National Park System as ”any areas of land and water now or hereafter administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service for park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational, or other purposes.”
In addition to the above statutory authority, the Superintendent is guided by established NPS policy as found in the NPS Management Policies (2006). The Superintendent is also guided by more specific policies promulgated by the Director, National Park Service, in the form of Director’s Orders. As stated in the Management Policies, the primary responsibility of the NPS is to protect and preserve our national natural and cultural resources while providing for the enjoyment of these resources by visitor and other users, as long as use does not impair specific park resources or overall visitor experience. The appropriateness of any particular visitor use or recreational experience is resource-based and will vary from park to park; therefore, a use or activity that is appropriate in one park area may not be appropriate in another. The Superintendent is directed to analyze overall park use and determine if any particular use is appropriate. Where conflict arises between use and resource protection, where the Superintendent has a reasonable basis to believe a resource is or would become impaired, then that Superintendent is obliged to place limitations on public use.
3. Consistency of This Compendium with Applicable Federal Law and Requirements
The Superintendent’s Compendium is not considered a significant rule requiring review by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866. In addition, this Compendium will not have a significant economic effect on a number of small entities nor impose a significant cost on any local, state or tribal government or private organization, and therefore does not fall under the requirements of either the Regulatory Flexibility Act or the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
The actions and requirements described in this Compendium are found to be categorically excluded from further compliance with the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Department of the Interior (DOI) Guidelines 516 DM 6 and as such, an Environmental Assessment will not be prepared.
4. Development of the Requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium
As outlined above, the NPS has broad authority and responsibility to determine what types of uses and activities are appropriate in any particular National Park System area. The requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium are developed through an analysis and determination process. The decision criteria used during this process are:
Is the use or activity consistent with the NPS Organic Act and NPS policy?
Is the use or activity consistent and compatible with the park’s enabling legislation, management objectives, and corresponding management plans?
Will the use or activity damage the park’s protected natural and cultural resources and other protected values?
Will the use or activity disturb or conflict with wildlife, vegetation, and environmental protection actions and values?
Will the use or activity conflict with or be incompatible with traditional park uses and activities?
Will the use or activity compromise employee or public safety?
5. Applicability of the Compendium
The rules contained in this Compendium apply to all persons entering, using, visiting or otherwise present on federally owned lands, including submerged lands, and waters administered by the NPS within the legislative boundaries of the park. This includes all waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, including all navigable waters.
6. Enforcement of Compendium Requirements
NPS Law Enforcement Park Rangers enforce the requirements of the United State Code, 36 CFR, and this Superintendent’s Compendium.
7. Penalties for Not Adhering to the Compendium Requirements
A person who violates any provision of the regulations found in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, or provisions of this Compendium, is subject to a fine as provided by law (18 U.S.C. 3571) up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months (18 U.S.C. 3559), or both, and shall be adjudged to pay all court costs associated with any court proceedings. You may receive a list of fines associated with any provision by contacting the Chief Ranger at the park address found below.
8. Comments on the Compendium
The Compendium is reviewed annually and revised as necessary. The park welcomes comments about its program and activities at any time.
Written comments on the Compendium may be submitted to:
Niobrara National Scenic River
214 West Highway 20
Valentine, NE 69201
9. Effective Date of the Superintendent Compendium
The Superintendent’s Compendium is effective on the approval date listed on the first page of this document, and remains in effect until revised for a period up to one year.
10. Additional Information
Some of the terms used in this Compendium may have specific meaning defined in 36 CFR 1.4 Definitions.
In accordance with regulations and the delegated authority provided in Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (“36 CFR”), Chapter 1, Parts 1-7, authorized by Title 54 United States Code, Section 100751, the following provisions apply to waters administered by and lands owned or administered by the National Park Service (NPS), within the boundaries of Niobrara National Scenic River. Note: These do not apply to lands within the boundary of the Niobrara National Scenic River managed by private individuals or organizations, or other state or federal agencies. Unless otherwise stated, these regulatory provisions apply in addition to the requirements contained in 36 CFR, Chapter 1, Parts 1-7.
Written determinations, which explain the reasoning behind the Superintendent’s use of discretionary authority, as required by Section 1.5(c), appear in this document identified by italicized print.
I. 36 CFR §1.5 (a)(2) Closures and Public Use Limits
The following restrictions are imposed on activities within park areas for the maintenance of public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks, except when actively eating or drinking, in all common areas and shared workspaces in buildings owned, rented, or leased by the National Park Service, including, but not limited to, park visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops, and restaurants.
All individuals over the age of two who are not yet fully vaccinated must wear masks in the following outdoor areas when others are present, except when actively eating or drinking, where the superintendent has determined that physical distancing (staying at least six feet part) cannot reasonably be maintained:
[e.g., outdoor areas adjacent to visitor centers]
[e.g., parking lots and common areas in campgrounds]
[e.g., crowded trails, viewpoints, and other areas of interest]
[e.g., covered structures that attract crowds such a memorials and open-air pavilions]
Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.
Regardless of vaccination status, all individuals must comply with all orders regarding masks issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC prevention measures continue to apply to all travelers on public transit, regardless of vaccination status. Masks remain required on all forms of public transit that operate within parks, including busses, trains, and boats/ferries, and in transportation hubs.
Park staff should not ask visitors whether or not they have been vaccinated. Absent evidence to the contrary, park staff should operate as though non-masked visitors are fully vaccinated.
The following restrictions and/or conditions are in effect for the specific uses or activities noted for those portions of the Niobrara River extending from the eastern boundary of Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge downstream to the Norden Bridge:
Unmanned Aircraft (Drones)
Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Niobrara National Scenic River is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.
Definition: The term “unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links.) This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.
Determination: Until the NPS can determine whether specific uses of unmanned aircraft are appropriate and will not cause unacceptable impacts on park resources and values, Niobrara National Scenic River is closed to the use of these devices. The use of unmanned aircraft within the boundaries of Niobrara National Scenic River has the potential to negatively impact the privacy of adjacent landowners along the river, including potentially creating a corridor of immunity over the water where adjacent landowners that did not want unmanned aircraft to operate would not be able to exclude them. It should be noted however, that this action does not prohibit an adjacent landowner from operating an unmanned aircraft. Unmanned aircraft operations could harm visitors, disturb wildlife, impact viewsheds, cause excessive noise, and interfere with other visitors' enjoyment of the area.
This closure is being implemented as an interim measure while this new use can be properly evaluated. A less restrictive approach is not appropriate at this time due to the impacts the devices could potentially present to visitor safety, park values, and to park resources. The interim closure will safeguard these values while the NPS considers how to address this new use on a long-term basis.
Use of an e-bike. The term “e-bike” means a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.).
E-bikes are allowed in Niobrara National Scenic River where traditional bicycles are allowed. E-bikes are prohibited where traditional bicycles are prohibited. Except where use of motor vehicles by the public is allowed, using the electric motor to move an e-bike without pedaling is prohibited.
A person operating an e-bike is subject to the following sections of 36 CFR part 4 that apply to the use of traditional bicycles: sections 4.12, 4.13, 4.20, 4.21, 4.22, 4.23, and 4.30(h)(2)-(5).
Except as specified in this Compendium, the use of an e-bike within Niobrara National Scenic River is governed by State law, which is adopted and made a part of this Compendium. Any violation of State law adopted by this paragraph is prohibited.
Determination Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are appearing in national parks with greater frequency. This regulation addresses this emerging form of recreation so that the National Park Service (NPS) can exercise clear management authority over the use of e-bikes within the National Park System
The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:
Outdoor filming activities involving five persons or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.
The organizer of any other type of filming activity must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. Based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary, to:
maintain public health and safety;
protect environmental or scenic values;
protect natural or cultural resources;
allow for equitable allocation and use of facilities; or
avoid conflict among visitor use activities.
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request.
The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity. If the organizer provides the required 10 day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a written response from the NPS that a permit is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.
The following are prohibited:
Engaging in a filming activity without providing advance notice to the Superintendent when required.
Engaging in a filming activity without a permit if the Superintendent has notified the organizer in writing that a permit is required.
Violating a term and condition of a permit issued under this action.
Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under to this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.
Determination While filming activities, including commercial filming in general are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment, there are circumstances where filming activities can negatively impact the resources the National Park Service is entrusted to protect and/or impair the ability of other visitors to enjoy their National Park sites. Consistent with 36 CFR § 1.5,the National Park Service must impose conditions or restrictions on such a use or activity. In circumstances where that could be an issue, a permit is required per 36 CFR § 1.6(a) to impose a public use limit on the filming activities to ensure that park resources as well as the interests of all parties are being appropriately and fairly addressed and protected.
Tying Vessels Together (10 Tube Limit)
Connecting vessels together while underway. The practice of fastening together vessels while adrift is limited to a maximum group size of ten (10) people. Examples of maximum vessel configurations include ten (10) individual person tubes, or three (3) giant tubes (tubes greater than 6 feet in diameter), or combination thereof. Individual watercraft and inflatable rafts designed to safely transport more than 10 passengers are permitted, but may not be secured to any other vessel while underway, with the exception that one cooler (non-passenger) tube may be tied to inflatable rafts. No more than five (5) canoes and/or kayaks may be fastened together while afloat. A maximum of three cooler tubes may be tied to any flotilla of vessels.
Determination: Large flotillas of vessels are a significant hazard to visitors and resources on the river. Because large flotillas are not maneuverable, they pose safety problems for users who may fall off and have the mass float over them. The larger the flotilla mass, the longer a person may remain submerged underneath, increasing the likelihood for drowning. Rangers have witnessed children and adults fall from flotillas and be swept beneath them. River users in canoes have also been forced underwater after capsizing and a flotilla has floated over them.
II. 36 CFR §1.6–PERMITS
Contact the Chief Ranger’s Office for permit information and applications:
Niobrara National Scenic River
214 West Highway 20
Valentine, NE, 69201
402-376-1901 phone 402-376-1949 fax
The following is a compilation of those activities on waters administered by and lands owned or administered by the NPS, within the boundaries of Niobrara National Scenic River for which a special use permit from the superintendent is required. These do not apply to lands within the boundary of the Niobrara National Scenic River owned and managed by private individuals or organizations, or other state or federal agencies.
§2.5(a) Research Specimens
Removal of wildlife for purposes other than those under legal hunting, fishing or trapping as regulated through Nebraska state laws and regulations.
§2.12 Audio Disturbances:
(a)(3) Operation of any type of portable motor or engine, or device powered by a portable motor or engine.
(a)(4) Operation of a public address system in connection with a public gathering or special event for which a permit has been issued pursuant to §2.50 or §2.51.
§2.37 Noncommercial Soliciting
§2.50(a) Special Events
§2.52(b) Sale or Distribution of Printed Matter
(b) Scattering ashes from human cremation.
§5.5 Commercial Photography:
(a) Still photography activities are subject to the provisions of 43 CFR Part 5. Still photography does not require a permit unless:
It uses a model, set, or prop
It takes place where members of the public are not allowed
The park would incur costs to provide onsite management to protect resources or minimize visitor use conflicts
Still photography of vehicles (vessels), or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising.
(b) Audio recording does not require a permit unless:
It takes place at locations where or when members of the public are generally not allowed
The equipment requires mechanical transport
It requires an external power source
The activity requires monitoring
The activity impacts resources
III. 36 CFR § 1.7(b) – PUBLIC NOTICE
Closed Circuit Television Policy: The National Park Service’s use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) for law enforcement and security purposes will only be to visually monitor public Park areas and public activities where no constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy exists. Such CCTV use – which will have adequate privacy and First Amendment safeguards – will be to help ensure public safety and security; facilitate the detection, investigation, prevention, and deterrence of terrorist attack and crime; help insure the safety of citizens and officers; help assist in the proper allocation and deployment of law enforcement and safety resources; help facilitate the protection of the innocent and the apprehension and prosecution of criminals.
This policy does not restrict the official use of CCTV in government administrative areas including administrative buildings, jail holding facilities, revenue collection sites, etc., where the government may record/monitor its facilities. For example, the government may perform unrestricted video/audio recording at revenue collection points (entrance stations, visitor center counters, etc.). This policy does not restrict the use of Mobile Audi/Video Recording Equipment (MVAR) in patrol vehicles driven by commissioned rangers; that use is addressed by other policy documents.
IV. 36 CFR §2.4 –WEAPONS, TRAPS, AND NETS
(h) Notwithstanding any other provision in this Chapter, a person may possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a national park area in accordance with the laws of the state in which the national park area, or that portion thereof, is located, except as otherwise prohibited by applicable Federal law.
This authority does not extend to Federal facilities that are leased by the National Park Service (18 U.S.C. 930(a)). Federal facilities include:
Niobrara National Scenic River Headquarters Determination: Park regulation cannot be less restrictive than United States Code.
V. 36 CFR §2.51(c) – Demonstrations
Designated area. The designated area for public demonstrations is in the parking lot of the Visitor Center building next to the flag pole.
Determination: This area is the only area under control of the superintendent that does not unreasonably interfere with program or administrative activities of the National Park Service