Geoheritage Framework—Federal Statutes

[working draft]




Antiquities Act of 1906
(16 USC 431–433)
Sec. 1 - Protects historic or prehistoric ruin or monument or any object of antiquity situated on lands owned or controlled by the U.S. Government

Sec. 2 – Authorizes the President to create historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest as National Monuments.
The act merges history and science in section 2, similar to Geologic Heritage.

This act does not specifically protect geologic wonders or landscapes beyond paleontological resources. Absent creation of a national monument it is questionable whether geologic formations that do not have historic significance would be protected.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Requires the federal government to prepare an Environmental Analysis of the impacts that may be caused by federal projects.

Purpose of NEPA – (42 USC § 4321) - “To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.”

42 U.S.C. § 4331(b)(4) – “…preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity, and variety of individual choice;”
As a practical manner when federal agencies begin their scoping for an environmental analysis, the agency will prepare a list of “impact topics.” These topics typically include such issues as effect on water quality, air quality, erosion, etc… However, just as important is the effect of the proposal on geologic heritage resources.

As an example, the EIS for a federal highway project that runs through a park will surely examine the effect on endangered species and air quality due to the increased use of cars and trucks. Rarely, however is the issue of how traffic will affect geologic resources examined. Vibrations from truck traffic can have adverse effects on nearby geology and should be examined in every case.
National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. § 1 et al) “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 of future generations.” Protect Natural and Historic Objects
General Authorities Act (16 U.S.C. § 1a-1) “…has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region of the United States, its territories and island possessions; that these areas, though distinct in character, are united through their inter-related purposes and resources into one national park system as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage”
National Park Enabling Statutes and Presidential Proclamations National Park Service units are set aside and granted protection pursuant to either Presidential proclamations or Congressional enabling acts. Title 16 of the United States Code contains most of these laws, but often the Presidential proclamations and other provisions of public laws are not codified and therefore must be researched and obtained from other legal sources. Many park enabling statutes specifically mention “geologic,” but others imply geologic heritage protection via words such as “scenery,” “physiographic condition,” “landscape” or specific geologic features such as a bluff, cliff, or formation.
Historic Sites Act of 1935 (16 U.S.C. § 461-467) § 461 - It is hereby declared that it is a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States. There are no National Historic Sites that depict solely natural history or geologic history.
Federal Land Policy & Management Act (FLPMA)
BLM’s Organic Act
43 USC § 1701(a)(7) – “management be on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified by law” (8) the public lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use.
USFS Organic Acts:

• Forest Service Organic Administration Act of 1897
• Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960
• National Forest Management Act of 1976
Forest Service Organic Administration Act of 1897

Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960

National Forest Management Act of 1976
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) The "Alaska lands bill" was enacted into law on December 2, 1980 as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) P.L. 96-487. As the agency most heavily involved with administering Federal lands, the Department of the Interior was given the responsibility to propose and to implement most of the legislation which would affect the present and, ultimately, determine the future of Alaska.
Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) In addition to grants, the Act provides a second incentive to states which develop coastal management programs (CMP) – a requirement that federal agency activities within or outside a state’s coastal zone that affect any land or water use or natural resource of the coastal zone are to be carried out in a manner which is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the approved CMP. A federal agency activity includes any function performed by or on behalf of a federal agency in the exercise of its statutory responsibility. The consistency requirement does not supersede federal authorities and/or stricter federal standards.
National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1988 (16 U.S.C. § 5937) Cave and Karst Resources - protects the confidentiality of the nature and specific location of cave and karst resources.

Paleontology - protects the confidentiality of the nature and specific location of paleontological resources and objects.

Mandates integration of science into decision making.
Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988 (16 U.S.C. § 4301-4309) Requires Interior/Agriculture to identify “significant caves” on Federal lands, regulate/restrict use of those caves as appropriate, and include significant caves in land management planning efforts. Imposes civil and criminal penalties for harming a cave or cave resources. Authorizes Secretaries to withhold information about specific location of a significant cave from a FOIA requester.
Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act of 1993, Public Law 103-169 Created a cave protection zone (CPZ) around Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Cavern National Park. Within the CPZ, access and the removal of cave resources may be limited or prohibited; existing leases may be cancelled with appropriate compensation; and lands are withdrawn from mineral entry.
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail – Public Law 111-11 “geological features that have exceptional value and quality to illustrate and interpret this extraordinary natural phenomenon are present on Federal, State, tribal, county, municipal, and private land in the region”
Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009, 16 U.S.C. § 470aaa et seq Provides for the management and protection of paleontological resources on lands administered by the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior (with the exception of tribal trust lands).
Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, 30 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. as amended in 1988 No geothermal leasing is allowed in parks.

“Significant” thermal features exist in 16 park units (the features listed by the NPS at 52 Fed. Reg. 28793-28800 (August 3, 1987), plus the thermal features in Crater Lake, Big Bend, and Lake Mead).

NPS is required to monitor those features.

Based on scientific evidence, Secretary of Interior must protect significant NPS thermal features from leasing effects.
Geothermal Steam Act Amendments of 1988, Public Law 100- 443 prohibits geothermal leasing in the Island Park known geothermal resource area near Yellowstone and outside 16 designated NPS units if subsequent geothermal development would significantly adversely affect identified thermal features.
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C § 1201 et. seq. prohibits surface coal mining operations on any lands within the boundaries of a NPS unit, subject to valid existing rights
Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 2011 – 2009 Provides for the collection and analysis of soil and related resource data and the appraisal of the status, condition, and trends for these resources.
Farmland Protection Policy Act, 7 U.S.C. § 4201 et. seq. Requires NPS to identify and take into account the adverse effects of Federal programs on the preservation of farmland; consider alternative actions, and assure that such Federal programs are compatible with State, unit of local government, and private programs and policies to protect farmland. NPS actions are subject to the FPPA if they may irreversibly convert farmland (directly or indirectly) to nonagricultural use and are completed by a Federal agency or with assistance from a Federal agency. Applicable projects require coordination with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The Wilderness Act of 1964 The Wilderness Act specifically states that areas may be set aside for their geological significance. Wilderness preserves valuable natural features including caves, volcanoes, canyons, geysers, mountains, fossils, glaciers, and beaches. Examples of such areas include the Badlands, Shenandoah, and Fire Island.

Last updated: November 18, 2021


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