Regulation Database – National Park Service

Regulatory Actions

On November 4, 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) published a rule revising nonfederal oil and gas regulations within national park lands. The rule implements stricter regulations to protect natural resources. For example, it clarifies that well operations should minimize flaring, discharges of hydrocarbon, and water pollution. The rule also removes exemptions so that larger percentages of oil and gas wells in parks are regulated, and increasing assessments for noncompliance. The rule was originally proposed on November 25, 2009, and became effective on December 5, 2016.

Deregulatory Action: On March 29, 2017, DOI Secretary Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3349, aimed at implementing President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. Among other things, the Order directed NPS to review the final rule revising oil and gas regulations in national park lands. However, NPS did not repeal the rule. More info >>

Plans and Guidance

The National Park Service published its “Climate Change Response Strategy” in September 2010 as a guidance document to comply with the 1916 Organic Act which states that the NPS must conserve lands “by such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.” The strategy includes the creation of a NPS Climate Change Coordination Group made up of four Associate Directors, and sets goals under and objectives under 4 categories, consistent with Secretarial Order 3289: science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication. The NPS outlines how they will reduce their own carbon footprint through energy efficiency strategies, apply climate models to their activities, and evaluate the potential for carbon storage and sequestration. This strategy is meant to increase the resiliency of national park lands and address the potential threats of climate change as efficiently as possible.

The NPS Climate Change Response Team has since published a number of program briefs and updated plans.

In November 2012, the National Park Service released the Climate Change Action Plan, building on the Climate Change Response Strategy of September 2010. The plan lists high-priority, no-regrets actions the National Park Service committed to undertake by 2014 to address climate change in national parks. It also provides guidance to help NPS staff prioritize decisions so that actions are focused and integrated across the agency.

The Green Parks Plan, originally released in April 2012 and updated in 2016, outlines how the National Park Service will meet its GHG emissions reductions goal set out in the 2010 “Climate Change Response Strategy.” The plan focuses on the reducing the impact park facilities have on the environment through a number of goals including increasing reliance on renewable energy, improving water use efficiency, adopting green transportation methods, and increasing recycling. Additionally, the NPS sets quantitative targets for reducing emissions. The plan aims to reduce Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions in 2020 by 35% from the 2008 baseline, and scope 3 emissions by 10%. It also plans to reduce building energy intensity in 2016 by 35% from a 2003 baseline, and water use intensity in 2020 by 30% above a 2007 baseline.

This strategy document, published in December 2016, identifies the broad scope of cultural resources that will be affected by climate change and discusses how park managers and other stakeholders can begin to plan for and adapt to these effects.

The National Park Service has issued a series of policy memoranda aimed at addressing climate change issues in parks management. Three memoranda make up the “pillar policies” to the service-wide response to climate change: Applying NPS Management Policies in the Context of Climate Change, Climate Change and Stewardship of Cultural Resources, and Addressing Climate Change and Natural Hazards for Facilities. The first pillar policy addresses issues of how climate change influences the guiding principles of park management; the second pillar policy provides guidance to NPS staff in relation to the preservation of cultural resources with the threat of climate change in mind; and the third provides guidance for the incorporation of known climate change impacts into the building and management of NPS facilities.

NPS has developed “foundation documents” for all parks, which describe fundamental resources and values, as well as priority issues and planning needs, and serve as platforms for updated park plans. Some of these documents address climate change. The foundation documents can be obtained by going to the NPS document search site and entering “foundation document” as a search term.

Implementing Actions

NPS participates in the Landscape Conservation Cooperation Network established by the 2009 DOI Secretarial Order 3289. The Network connects federal, state, local and tribal governments and other stakeholders to manage landscape conservation efforts across jurisdictional boundaries.

Climate Exposure of U.S. National Parks (2014): To help park managers prepare for the effects of climate change, NPS scientists released an overarching report on the vulnerability of the National Park System, accompanied by 289 park-specific briefs.

Eastern Forest Vulnerability (2014): NPS scientists released a second paper focusing more specifically on how climate change will affect eastern forests, accompanied by 121 park-specific briefs.

National Park Vulnerability (2018): NPS scientists released a third paper in 2018 discussing findings that national parks are more vulnerable to climate change than the United States as a whole.

Adaptation Resources Website: This website contains resources specifically tailored to help NPS managers respond to climate change, such as a tool for visualizing climate conditions in a park; guidelines for park visitation and climate change, guidance on adaptive capacity, and guidance on adaptation strategies to respond to the risk of wildfire. The vulnerability assessments and other tools noted here are included on the website.

Scenario Planning for Climate Change: NPS conducted scenario-planning workshops and has also published a practitioner handbook on Using Scenarios to Explore Climate Change (2013). In April 2014, NPS published an Addendum to Using Scenarios to Explore Climate Change. n November 2019, NPS published the report Implications of Climate Change for the Water Supply of the Chisos Mountains Developed Area. In December 2019, NPS published the report Climate Change Scenario Planning for Resource Stewardship: Applying a Novel Approach in Devils Tower National Monument. In February 2020, NPS published the Resource Stewardship Strategy Supplemental Guidance to Integration of Climate Change Scenario Planning into the Resource Stewardship Strategy Process.

Coastal Adaptation Case Studies: In September of 2015, the National Park Service released a summary report detailing 24 coastal adaptation efforts occurring in 15 states across the country. In May 2015, NPS published the report “Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Parks”. In 2016, NPS published the Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook. In December 2016, NPS published a new Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy. The updated Cultural Resources Impact Table as of September 16, 2020, is also available.

Cultural Resources Adaptation: As noted above, in September 2015 NPS developed a strategy document which identifies different management approaches that can be used to protect cultural resources for the effects of climate change. NPS also published a Cultural Resources Impacts Table to help park managers identify climate change impacts that may be relevant to the cultural resources they manage.