Policy Waivers

Adherence to the Service-wide policies found in Management Policies, Director's Orders, and Policy Memoranda is mandatory unless waived or modified in writing by the Director. Waivers of policy may also be issued by the Secretary of the Interior and the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Requests for waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis. Previous waivers are not necessarily regarded as precedents for future waivers or modifications. A waiver cannot be granted if it would (1) result in the impairment of park resources or values, or (2) lead to unacceptable impacts. (See Management Policies, section 1.4.7, and Director’s Order #1, section 6.4)

Before formally requesting a waiver, the problem or issue should first be discussed with Office of Policy staff, who will help ascertain whether there is some other acceptable way to achieve the desired result. The Office of Policy will also ensure that other NPS offices with relevant responsibilities and expertise are consulted.

How to request a waiver for policy in Management Policies, a Director's Order, or Policy Memorandum

To request a waiver, the park superintendent or program manager must prepare and send a memo to the Director through (1) the regional director, (2) the appropriate assistant or associate director, and (3) the Chief, Office of Policy. The memo should concisely and candidly describe:

  • the issue or problem you are facing, and what you propose to do;

  • the policy for which a waiver is requested;

  • whether the waiver would be permanent or temporary (if temporary, for how long);

  • why compliance with the policy is not possible or practicable;

  • the effects of the waiver on park resources, and steps you will take to lessen or mitigate adverse effects;

  • the likely reaction by other interested parties to the waiver (or failure to waive); and

  • any potential precedent-setting implications of the waiver.

Any helpful supplemental information should be attached to the memorandum. For example, if the waiver relates to a product label, sign, or other printed matter, a mark-up should be provided.

The final part of the memo is for the Director’s signature indicating approval or disapproval of the waiver request. The Director will check the appropriate decision line. The signature portion of the memorandum should be as follows:

___ I concur

___ I concur, provided that ________________________________________________


___ I do not concur



How to request a waiver for guidance in a Level 3 document

If the Director has delegated to an associate or assistant director the authority to issue mandatory standards or requirements in Level 3 documents (such as a handbook or reference manual), the associate or assistant director may also waive the same. [from DO #1, section 5.1]

Waivers of requirements imposed by duly delegated associate or assistant directors in Level 3 documents (such as a handbook or reference manual) should be requested from the appropriate associate or assistant director. These types of waiver requests do not need to be submitted to the Director or routed through the Chief, Office of Policy.

Office of Policy staff are available to answer questions and provide advice.

Last updated: July 13, 2023