Geothermal resources include features such as geysers, hot springs, hot pools, and mud pots. These features are surface expressions of a potentially extensive underground hot water system. Fluids warmed by this natural heat are, in many places, extracted and used to generate electricity and provide heat for industrial processes and buildings. In the United States, development of geothermal resources on federal lands is under a leasing program under which wells are drilled to tap the steam or hot water. In many park units, such as Yellowstone and Crater Lake National Parks, geothermal features inside the parks may be connected to hot water systems outside the boundaries. Therefore, development of these resources outside the parks could affect thermal features inside the parks.
The NPS works to conserve thermal features in park units from development by applying the mandates of the Geothermal Steam Act, 30 U.S.C. Sections 1001-1028. If the NPS or BLM determines that geothermal exploration or development is reasonably likely to adversely affect any significant thermal features in park units, the NPS works with BLM (the onshore mineral leasing agency) to make sure that the lease and drilling permits include measures for protecting park features. If the NPS or BLM determine that geothermal exploration or development is reasonably likely to significantly adversely affect any significant thermal features in park units, then the lease may not be issued.
Last updated: December 14, 2020