Partnership Legal Framework

Partnerships, like all activities of the federal government, must operate within the legal framework established by Congress in statute. Partnerships also must comply with applicable regulations and policy guidance. As a result, both federal and non-federal partners should understand the legal underpinnings of the partnership, to enable an efficient, effective, and legally compliant partnership. This portion of the website is designed to ready access to federal law affecting partnerships and to enable both NPS and its partners to understand how the law affects the structuring and management of partnerships. This is not designed to answer the more complex and varied legal questions that can arise in partnerships. The Solicitor's Office should be consulted early in regarding specific questions about the application of federal law to the partnership.

The first place to look for the boundaries of a particular partnership activity is in the statutory program or appropriations authority that supports the partnership. The value of identifying the underlying authority cannot be overstated, so this brief discussion should simply remind employees working on partnership activities to clearly understand the authority under which they are entering into the partnership.

Substantive Statutory Authority. If a particular statute authorizes the partnership activity, that authority may also contain specific limitations. For example, a statute that authorizes the Secretary to establish a park in cooperation with a State may also require the Secretary to ensure that state laws apply on the park. Conversely, Congress may enact specific statutes that forbid a particular partnership activity. For example, Congress has forbidden Federal agencies from creating business corporations.

Annual Appropriations Acts and Funding. No partnership activity may take place without available funds being allocated for the partnership purpose. Occasionally, Congress may insert specific limitations (beyond the normal limits related to the amount and allocation of the funding itself) in the annual appropriations acts for the Department that impact partnership activities.

The following links provide specific information on legal frameworks and limitations for partnerships: