National Park Service
NPS rangers gather for a memorial service at Mount Rushmore NM
NPS rangers gather for a memorial service at Mount Rushmore NM
NPS Essentials

Visitor and Resource Protection, Emergency Services

VRP Essentials Introduction

The branch of the National Park Service (NPS) responsible for Visitor and Resource Protection (VRP) works to protect the safety and health of our visitors, partners, and staff as well as our natural and cultural resources. The VRP is made up of many NPS operations including:

  • Law Enforcement
  • NPS Law Enforcement Training Center (NPS-LETC)
  • U.S. Park Police
  • Jurisdiction
  • Emergency Services
    • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
    • Search and Rescue (SAR)
    • Emergency Communications
    • Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Fire and Aviation Management
    • Wildland Fire
    • Structural Fire
    • Aviation
  • Wilderness Stewardship and Management
  • Regulations, Special Park Uses, and Commercial Use Authorizations

*Risk Management and Public Health are covered under the Safety and Wellness Essential

*Fee Collection operations are often supervised by VRP but the official policy and park operation direction comes from the Business Services branch and directorate.

The links below include management documents that serve to guide employees on VRP topics. These documents assist managers in making day-to-day decisions and are the driving force behind many NPS operations.

The following is the general organization of the VRP Directorate:
VRP Organizational Chart

 

Law Enforcement (LE)

Mounted LE Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park Wreath Laying Ceremony, photo from NPS.gov
Mounted LE Ranger at Grand Canyon
National Park Wreath Laying Ceremony
photo from NPS.gov
The objectives of the NPS law enforcement program are:

  • The prevention of criminal activities through public safety education and deterrence efforts
  • The investigation of any criminal activity, including apprehension and prosecution of violators.

The division of Law Enforcement, Security, and Emergency Services (LESES) has many duties, including: formulating policy, overseeing/supporting policy enforcement, and leadership assistance for park managers. While carrying out the NPS law enforcement mission, all reasonable efforts are made to protect the natural and cultural resources entrusted to its care. This includes provisions for the protection, safety, and security of all visitors, as well as the care of public/private property under NPS jurisdiction. All of these responsibilities are in keeping with the General Authorities Act, which was amended by Congress in 1976 and remains the most recent Congressional direction for the NPS law enforcement.  (Refer to NPS Management Policies, 2006, section 8.3) Highlighted points from this mandate are as follows:

  • Public law has authorized the Secretary of Interior (along with the NPS) to engage in emergency services as necessary
  • It is the intent of Congress/NPS that law enforcement continue to be conducted in conjunction with a broad array of visitor and resource protection operations
  • We should expect our law enforcement employees to be well trained, well equipped, and prepared to do their jobs effectively and safely. (NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.3.3)

The LESES continues to expand in terms of scope of responsibilities. In January 2013, LESES added the NPS Law Enforcement Training Center (NPS-LETC) under its purview.

 

NPS Law Enforcement Training Center (NPS-LETC)

NPS Law Enforcement Training Center (NPS-LETC)

The NPS Law Enforcement Training Center (NPS-LETC) is part of the land management agencies group located within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia. 

The primary mission of the NPS-LETC is to coordinate the accredited seasonal, basic, and advanced law enforcement programs for all NPS protection rangers and special agents.

NPS-LETC works in partnership with the NPS cooperative law enforcement training programs (commonly referred to as "seasonal ranger academies") at colleges and universities throughout the U.S.  For more information the “jobs and training” section of the Association of National Park Rangers website is a good place to learn

Upon completing the Basic LE Training a Field Training and Evaluation Program transitions LE commissioned rangers from basic training to their permanent park unit.

The NPS-LETC also coordinates Advanced Law Enforcement Training Programs for the NPS, and provides support to the field by managing a variety of field-based training programs.  For more information on NPS-LETC search Inside NPS.

 

The United States Park Police

U.S. Park Police head toward Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. NPS.gov
U.S. Park Police head toward Lower Manhattan
on September 11, 2001. NPS.gov

The U.S. Park Police (USPP) is the oldest federal uniformed law enforcement agency in the United States, and grew from the Park Watchmen, a workforce that was created by George Washington in 1791.

The USPP continue to serve and protect today. They are a part of the National Park Service, with jurisdiction in all NPS areas and certain other federal/state lands.


Each officer of the USPP is charged with the responsibility of providing protection services, such as investigating and detaining persons suspected of committing offenses against the United States. Additionally, law enforcement services are provided for the many notable civic events conducted within the NPS.


The USPP have responsibilities for providing services within the District of Columbia, as well as other Federal locations in the Washington D.C. area, New York, and San Francisco. They are also frequently requested to provide protection for dignitaries, such as the President of the United States and visiting foreign heads of state. In the case of law enforcement emergencies, the USPP may provide assistance to any park service unit as well as other law enforcement agencies.

In August 2014, the U.S. Park Police joined the VRP Directorate. 

Role of Non-Commissioned Employees

The NPS recognizes that effective law enforcement requires a cooperative effort from all branches of the NPS. While it is understood that employees without appropriate credentials and training are not authorized or expected to execute all actions of a commissioned law enforcement officer, responsibilities can still be shared by recognizing and reporting suspicious activity and offenses.

All park employees will be trained to recognize, observe, and record criminal acts, and illegal activities. The Service will also encourage and assist park neighbors in the development of cooperative crime prevention and detection programs.  (NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.3.3)

Jurisdiction

This joint Canadian and U.S. listing embraces four national parks and protected areas on both sides of the international boundary. Inscribed in 1979 and extended in 1992 and 1994. Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatsheshini-Alsek Parks.
This joint Canadian and U.S. listing embraces four
national parks and protected areas on both sides of
the international boundary. Inscribed in 1979 and
extended in 1992 and 1994.
Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatsheshini-Alsek Parks.

This joint Canadian and U.S. listing embraces four national parks and protected areas on both sides of the international boundary. Inscribed in 1979 and extended in 1992 and 1994. Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatsheshini-Alsek Parks.

The term jurisdiction defines the sphere of authority that the NPS has in a unit of the NPS. It outlines the boundaries within which a particular authority may be exercised. Jurisdictions within the Park Service are as follows: 

  • Exclusive
  • Concurrent
  • Proprietary
  • Partial

It is important for all employees to note the differences between these types of jurisdiction in the unit where they work, and to understand who has authority to take law enforcement actions within that unit of the NPS.

Exclusive

Exclusive jurisdiction occurs when a state no longer has the authority to enforce its own criminal laws within a particular piece of land. The three ways in which the United States government is able to acquire this level of jurisdiction over Federal lands are:
  1. Prior to February 1, 1940, the state enacted a law consenting to the U.S. acquiring particular lands within the state boundaries.
  2. The U.S. reserved federal lands prior to granting statehood to a state (e.g., Yellowstone National Park was created before Wyoming was admitted to the Union).
  3. The state passes a law ceding exclusive jurisdiction to the U.S. (e.g., Isle Royale National Park). Since February 1, 1940, in order to take effect the U.S. must affirmatively accept such jurisdiction (40 USC § 3112).
Under exclusive jurisdiction enforcement is conducted through federal laws and regulations. State and/or county agencies have no authority within exclusive federal jurisdiction except to serve process law such as warrants or subpoenas for court. Exclusive jurisdiction allows for the assimilation of state law in the event that no applicable federal law exists.

Concurrent

In concurrent jurisdiction, NPS employees may work in tandem with state and local law enforcement with each entity being able to enforce their respective laws. Concurrent jurisdiction also allows for the assimilation of state law in the event that no applicable federal law exists.  (NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section. 8.3.5)

Proprietary

Proprietary jurisdiction is often found in the more recent additions to the NPS system and is the most common type of jurisdiction. In proprietary jurisdiction, the United States has acquired the title to an area in a state, but the state has not ceded any measure of its authority over the area.

This means that NPS officers typically enforce rules such as 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) as well as certain federal laws that are not dependent upon type of jurisdiction (The Archeological Resource Protection Act for example). Serious crimes against persons or non-federal property, even when committed on NPS property, are referred to the local policing agency.

Partial

Usually similar to exclusive jurisdiction, except that the state has reserved the right to exercise certain authorities, such as the right to levy a tax or require fishing licenses.

Important Notes:

  • Generally, NPS will seek to acquire concurrent jurisdiction for all units of the system, as required by the 1976 amendment to the General Authorities Act.
  • It is possible for a park unit to have multiple jurisdictions, which adds a layer of complexity to maintaining visitor safety and protecting resources. Many units throughout the NPS have a jurisdictional compendium that provides guidance regarding specific types of jurisdiction for any given location. It is important that all park employees know the jurisdiction(s) in their unit and how it impacts park operations.

Key Concept

No matter what level of law enforcement training or authority an employee has, it is their obligation to be observant at all times, and to recognize and report potential violations and unusual or suspicious activity.  This follows Homeland Security’s concept of the “See Something, Say Something” national program.

Regardless of jurisdiction, the NPS has the authority and responsibility to keep people safe and care for the resources within its boundaries. The type of jurisdiction will dictate who enforces laws that apply to criminal acts by the public, residents and employees within parks. When federal law or regulations conflict with the laws of the state, the federal law is supreme, regardless of the type of jurisdiction. 

Wrap Up Questions:

Please answer these questions before moving on to the next section. If you are unsure, ask a supervisor to assist you in finding the answer as it relates to your position and/or department.

  1. Which jurisdiction does your place of employment fall under?
  2. How does jurisdiction type impact you and your co-workers?

Additional information

 

Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Operations

Below the South Rim SAR “Rangers working on patient before medevac” Grand Canyon National Park, photo NPS.gov
Below the South Rim SAR “Rangers working on patient
before medevac” Grand Canyon National Park, photo NPS.gov
Below the South Rim SAR “Rangers working on patient before medevac” Grand Canyon National Park, photo NPS.gov

Along with the mandate for protecting the resources under its care, NPS Management Policies state “The saving of human life will take precedence over all other management actions as the Park Service strives to protect human life and provide for injury-free visits” (NPS Management Policies 2006, Section 8.2.5.1.).

The policy language also makes it clear that the Service will do this under the substantial constraints of the 1916 Organic Act to undertake discretionary actions only to the extent that they do not impair park resources and values.

Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Operations planning should:

  • Provide guidance for incident management at the park level, as well as management/relief for emergency situations beyond NPS capabilities
  • Ensure agency compliance with Homeland Security directives, the National Emergency Response Plan, as well as the National Incident Management System standards
  • Support interagency and national response to major incidents

Programs under Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Operations include:

  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Search and Rescue
  • Diver Operations
  • Emergency Communications
  • Critical Incident Stress Management
  • Incident Management System

Additional information

 

Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

EMS Services “Rangers provide first response emergency medical services in cooperation with Gunnison Valley Hospital.” Curecanti National Recreation Area, photo by NPS.gov
EMS Services “Rangers provide first response emergency
medical services in cooperation with Gunnison Valley Hospital.
” Curecanti National Recreation Area, photo by NPS.gov

“The service will make reasonable efforts to provide appropriate EMS for persons who become ill or injured” (NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.2.5.6)

Emergency Medical Services greatly vary from unit to unit. In NPS units that are close to urban areas there may be an agreement with the local EMS providers who would then respond to emergencies within the park. In remote locations, it is more likely that parks will have their own EMS staff and equipment in order to reduce response time and increase effectiveness.

In any unit of the NPS, park staff are likely to be the first responders to an EMS incident.
All NPS staff are encouraged to have training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) as well as basic first aid.

A staff member with EMS in their job description may require more advanced EMS skills, training, and certifications in accordance with the individual park unit’s EMS needs.

For those whose position does not require a particular certification level, but who decide to be trained in CPR/AED or other levels of care, the employee and supervisor should have conversation regarding the scope of the employee’s responsibilities.

Regardless of training, every NPS employee has the ability and responsibility to activate the EMS by recognizing the need for medical attention, and calling for help when necessary. EMS preparedness is essential not only for the protection of visitors, but also for employees of the Park Service.

Key Concept

Regardless of the position held, all NPS employees play an important role in ensuring the proper care of those who may become sick or injured in NPS units.

Wrap Up Questions

Please answer these questions before moving on to the next section. If you are unsure, ask a supervisor to assist you in finding the answer.
  • Have you had any emergency medical training? What is your current certification level and what level of training does your position require?
  • Are you aware of your local “Good Samaritan” statutes? 
  • Have you had a conversation with your supervisor to clarify his/her expectations regarding your involvement with EMS?

Search and Rescue (SAR)

Mountain Rescue “Lowering off the summit - Liberty Ridge” Mount Rainier National Park, photo by NPS.gov
Mountain Rescue “Lowering off the summit - Liberty Ridge”
Mount Rainier National Park, photo by NPS.gov
Mountain Rescue “Lowering off the summit - Liberty Ridge” Mount Rainier National Park, photo by NPS.gov

The statement “The saving of human life will take precedence over all other management actions as the Park Service strives to protect human life and provide injury free visits” NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.2.5.11 does not require the NPS to put its rescuers in unnecessary peril.

Some Basic Principles of Search and Rescue:

  • Do not put rescuers in unnecessary danger
  • Do not create a situation where rescuers need to be rescued
  • Make reasonable efforts (see: NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.2.5.3)
  • SAR response may be provided by the NPS or outside expertise
  • NPS will not charge for rescues as per NPS Management Policies (exceptions – courts may order restitution, private contractors may bill for rescue services)
  • Operations will be conducted using Incident Command System (ICS)

Even if an employee’s job description does not list search and rescue (SAR) as a direct responsibility, it is possible that any employee may be drawn into the process, either to assist professional medical staff, as a witness/reporting party, as an emergency point of contact, or a number of other roles. Therefore, it is imperative that all employees understand what steps are involved when these situations arise.  At the very least employees who may be the initial contact for a reporting party should know how to take a report and insure that the reporting party can be reached for further information.

Once again, it is important to understand the requirement of your position description as well as the expectations of your supervisor to determine the level of SAR training that you may need. There are sources for both basic and advanced/technical training. Individual park units may have very specific requirements. 

Wrap Up Questions:

  • Please be sure that you can answer these questions before moving on to the next section. If you are unsure, ask a supervisor to assist you in finding the answer.
  • Why should all NPS have at least a basic understanding of Search and Rescue?
  • Which is the best level of SAR training for your position and/or specific park?

Incident Command System (ICS)

Due to organizational and response needs that arose primarily from wildfire response over the years, the Incident Command System (ICS) was established to create a process flow, as well as a communication system to improve reaction time and effectiveness, particularly when dealing with multiple agencies. Although the system is in a constant state of refinement, it has successfully streamlined a variety of tasks that have been adopted by many agencies and international organizations in order to respond to emergencies.

Each park unit should develop and maintain an emergency operations plan in order to ensure a quick and effective response to all types of emergencies that can be reasonably anticipated. Basic ICS training is available online, as well as through the DOI Learning Management System.

As stated in NPS Management Policies, 2006, Chapter 8, emergency operations will be conducted using the Incident Command System of the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS). When combined with NIIMS, the ICS includes: EMS, LE, SAR, and Fire Management. The use of an ICS allows for a coordinated response across various jurisdictions and agencies. If outside agencies need to become involved, the Unified Command System (which is part of the Incident Command System) is activated.

It is worth noting that the Service often uses ICS in non-emergency situations as well, for example: managing large special events, including sporting events, concerts, and inaugurations. 

Wrap Up Questions:

  • Does your park have a current Emergency Operations Plan?
  • Have you completed basic training in ICS?
  • Have you clarified with your supervisor, what your responsibilities will be in an emergency?

Fire and Aviation Management

Wildland Fire

Yellowstone NP Wildland Fire (Yellowstone NP flickr.com)
Yellowstone NP Wildland Fire
(Yellowstone NP flickr.com)

The management of wildland fires has long been at the core of NPS operations. It is part of the mission of the NPS in general, and the Wildland Fire Program specifically, to protect the lives, property, and resources of the National Park System in a manner that allows for the enjoyment by future generations, while allowing for the natural role of fire on the landscape.

Committed to safety, science, and stewardship, the Wildland Fire Program plays a role in maintaining and restoring ecosystems. For far too long we focused only on the negative impacts of fire on the landscape. Today we know much more about the positive effects that fire can have for a variety of ecosystems and the Wildland Fire Program meets the need for resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response.

Fire managers if allowed under a fire management plan at a park unit may ignite fires intentionally. These fires that are set for the benefit of the ecosystem are known as prescribed fires or prescribed burns. These burns are typically used to restore and maintain natural or cultural landscapes. Prescribed burns also reduce excess buildup of combustible vegetation (known as fuel load) or may be used to remove invasive species, among other reasons. Additionally, some naturally ignited wildfires may be allowed to burn for the benefit of the resource if certain conditions are met as set forth in a fire management plan.

There are a variety of certification levels and positions required for wildland fire response in addition to the position of firefighter. On large fires, the response will require a variety of positions that focus on logistics, communication, administration and operations. . You may have the opportunity to participate with proper training and support from your supervisor.

Wrap Up Questions:

  • What are some positive impacts that fire can have on the NPS resources?
  • Does your position require any level of certification in wildland fire?
  • How does managing fire meet the mission of the National Park Service?

 

Structural Fire

NPS structural firefighters at live fire training at Glen Canyon NRA. Photo by Riley Caton.
NPS structural firefighters at live fire training at
Glen Canyon NRA. Photo by Riley Caton.

Structural fire protection is yet another area that may look quite different across the various units of the NPS. It is a complex, interdisciplinary activity with many variables. Each superintendent will complete a fire assessment and structural fire plan to meet the needs of the park. Every park must ensure they have adequate fire suppression response available; trained and equipped structural staff in park, agreements with outside departments, or a combination of both may provide this. Reference Manual 58 outlines five levels of fire suppression services that are available for parks to ensure adequate response.

In addition to manual fire suppression, each park must provide the highest level of fire prevention possible. This includes training employees in fire extinguisher use, the installation (and inspection and testing) of fire alarm and suppression systems, annual fire safety inspections of buildings, establishing and adhering to a hot-work permitting system, and more. A key component to accomplishing these tasks is to identify a Park Structural Fire Coordinator (PSFC). The Structural Fire Program Office provides a certification-training course for these employees, at no cost to the park.

NPS Annual Fire Extinguisher Education training is available for free online through DOI Learn. It is a 20-minute self-paced course, which meets the annual structural fire recommendations.

Wrap Up Questions:

  1. Is your park unit/department’s emergency number 9-1-1?  If not, what is it, and who will respond when it is activated?
  2. Do you know where the fire extinguisher is closest to your workspace?
  3. Who should you contact if you find a fire extinguisher that is missing, damaged, or the gauge is not in the green?
    • Your supervisor
    • The Park Structural Fire Coordinator
    • The parks Safety Officer
    • Any one of the above
  4. Why should all NPS employees take fire extinguisher training every year?
    • OSHA says so.
    • NPS policy requires it.
    • Because it is the right thing to do to protect lives and property.
    • All of the above.
  5. Should you escape or extinguish if there is a lot of smoke in the area?
  6. NPS policy requires that you report a fire even if it was small and put out with a fire extinguisher.
    • True
    • False
  7. In addition to having a fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it, which of the following are also important to keep you safe in the event of a fire?
    • All of the following.
    • Smoke alarms
    • Fire sprinkler system
    • Having a fire escape plan and practicing it.
  8. Fire extinguishers generally contain only a small amount of extinguishing agent and are intended to combat small, contained fires.
    • True
    • False
  9. Should you escape or extinguish if there are other potential hazards in the area such as flammable gases or obstacles?
  10. In the event of a fire, what should you do?
    • Use a fire extinguisher if it is safe to do so.
    • Leave the building.
    • Call 911
    • All of the choices are correct.
  11. You extinguish a small fire in a trashcan that causes no other damage. What should you do next?
    • Nothing. Go back to work.
    • Post it on Facebook.
    • Tell your boss.
    • None of the above.
  12. Do you work in a building with detection and suppression systems? Are you familiar with their function?

Aviation Program

Park Helicopter at Denali National Park & Preserve / (Denali Flickr account)
Park Helicopter at Denali National Park & Preserve
(Denali Flickr account)

Aviation is one of the many programs in the NPS that supports multiple areas and disciplines. Nearly 60% of aircraft use in NPS supports natural resource management. Some of the other programs supported by NPS Aviation include fire, law enforcement, search and rescue, backcountry patrol, and transport of personnel and cargo.

In providing this support, the NPS uses contracted helicopters and airplanes, as well as government-owned "fleet" aircraft. The NPS Aviation Program requires highly skilled pilots and personnel as well as technically complex aircraft and equipment to perform aviation functions critical to accomplishing the NPS mission.

The NPS Aviation Program is unique, challenging and the one of most diverse and complex of any aviation programs within the Department of the Interior (DOI). High-risk activities are routinely performed in varied terrain and environmental conditions.

Use of unmanned aircraft is becoming more frequent for NPS administrative purposes, such as research on threatened and endangered species, animal inventory and monitoring, and law enforcement. Unmanned aircraft use by National Park Service employees for official purposes requires an approval process through the Regional Aviation Manager. Operations of unmanned aircraft by private citizens in national parks are not permitted.
(NPS Management Policies, 2006, Section 8.4)

 

Wilderness Stewardship

Denali  NP / 2014 (nps.gov)
Denali NP / 2014 (nps.gov)

The mission of the NPS Wilderness Stewardship Program is to identify and designate areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, as well as to steward those lands at the highest level of wilderness protection.

The program trains NPS staff and educates the public about wilderness character, values, and ethics. The program works closely with its sister agencies and external partners to enhance capacity and engage stakeholders in becoming global stewards of our remaining wild landscapes.

All NPS lands will be evaluated for their eligibility for inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System. For those lands that possess wilderness characteristics, no action that would diminish their wilderness eligibility will be taken until after Congress and the President have taken final action. The manager of each park that contains wilderness will develop and maintain a wilderness management plan. Wilderness considerations will be integrated into all planning documents to guide the preservation, management, and use of the park’s wilderness area and ensure that wilderness is unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness. 

“A wilderness is an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” from the 1964 Wilderness Act. 

Gateway to the National Park Service Wilderness

Important Note:

When looking at all types of wilderness in the NPS including, legislated (areas that have been designated Wilderness by Congress), eligible, proposed, and recommended, these lands account for 80% of the acreage managed as wilderness by the National Park System.

Wrap Up Questions:

  • Does your park have any legislated, eligible, proposed, recommended or potential wilderness?
  • How does the presence or absence of wilderness affect park planning and operations?

 

Regulations

Elkhorn Coral is an endangered and protected species. Anchoring in the Virgin Islands National Park is only allowed in three locations. Know the regulations and keep the reefs safe for future generations. photo from Submerged Resources Center NPS.gov
Elkhorn Coral is an endangered and protected species.
Anchoring in the Virgin Islands National Park is only
allowed in three locations. Know the regulations and keep
the reefs safe for future generations.
photo from Submerged Resources Center NPS.gov
Elkhorn Coral is an endangered and protected species. Anchoring in the Virgin Islands National Park is only allowed in three locations. Know the regulations and keep the reefs safe for future generations. photo from Submerged Resources Center NPS.gov 

The NPS Organic Act grants the Secretary of the Interior the authority to implement ”such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary or proper for the use and management of [National Park] System units.”  (54 USC 100751).

Regulations may also be authorized or required under other specific legislation passed by Congress.

The primary function of the Regulations Program is to develop and coordinate the publication of regulations that govern visitor use and resource protection in NPS units.  Personnel in this program help parks and program areas meet management goals through the rulemaking process, by writing, editing and coordinating the legal review of proposed and final regulations. They ensure consistency with federal law, seek and analyze public comment, and interact with Congress regarding regulatory action.

When management actions in a park unit have the potential to do any of the following they shall be published as rulemaking in the Federal Register" (36 CFR 1.5(b)): 

  • Significantly alter public use patterns
  • Have an adverse affect on the park's natural, aesthetic, scenic or cultural values
  • Require a long-term or significant modification in the resource management objectives of the unit
  • Are of a highly controversial nature

Additional Information

 

Special Park Uses (SPU)

Special Park Use wedding permit on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, photo used with permission
Special Park Use wedding permit on the
South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Photo used with permission
Management Polices 2006 (Section 8.6) defines a special park use as an activity that takes place in a park area, and that

  • Provides a benefit to an individual, group, or organization rather than the public at large;
  • Requires a written authorization and some degree of management control from the Service in order to protect park resources and the public interest;
  • Is not prohibited by law or regulation;
  • Is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the Service; and
  • Is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease (NPS Management Policies 2006, section 8.6.1)

Park managers shall take into account applicable legislation, regulations, management policies, and park planning documents when deciding whether to issue a special park use permit. The task of evaluating and authorizing or denying requests for special events or other non-NPS activities by groups or individuals is the responsibility of individual park Superintendents, with guidance from trained staff and SPU program managers.
 
Weddings, concerts, commercial filming, and boating events, are examples of the wide range of activities approved under SPU permits. Despite the range of events that have been approved in the past, the Superintendent must use discretion if the activity would:

  • Cause unacceptable impacts
  • Potentially result in human injury and/or damage to NPS property
  • Be contrary to the purposes for which the park has been established (i.e.: impairment)
  • Unreasonably interfere with visitor services or program activities
  • Present a clear and present danger to public health and safety
  • Result in significant conflict with other park’s existing uses

Special Park Use training and further education is available through DOI Learn via self-paced, online modules. An instructor-led class is offered biannually, registration is available through DOI Learn.

Wrap Up Questions:

  • What types of Special Park Uses currently occur in your park?
  • Who do you refer requests for Special Park Use permits to in your park?

Additional Information

 

Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA)

People camping in Denali typically use a 'camper bus' to access their campground or backcountry unit for a wilderness backpacking trip. Denali National Park & Preserve NPS.gov
People camping in Denali typically use a 'camper bus'
to access their campground or backcountry unit for a
wilderness backpacking trip.
Denali National Park & Preserve NPS.gov

The Business Services directorate provides guidance for both CUA and Concession Management. For further information for these, please refer to NPS Essentials for Commercial Services.

CUAs are mentioned here because VRP employees often serve in a role to administer or help regulate such activities. CUAs are also frequently issued in conjunction with a special park use permit to authorize sales or other commercial activities.

Not to be confused with concession contracts, A CUA is a permit that authorizes suitable commercial services to a park that are determined to be an appropriate use of the park, will have minimal impact on park resources and values, and are consistent with the purpose for which the unit was established.

Appropriate fees to recover any associated management and administrative costs will be charged.

 

 

 

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