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Administrative Uses of Resources

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Administrative uses of natural resources are defined as the use or alteration of a natural resource in the administration of park operations. Administrative uses of natural resources cover a wide spectrum of activities that can, if not managed with sensitivity, lead to significant localized resource impact. In some instances, this impact can be long lasting. All administrative uses of resources must be consistent with NPS policy and with park management objectives and should seek to minimize damage to the resource. All actions should be documented in an approved resource management plan and must be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other relevant environmental legislation. Rather than develop a comprehensive list of all possible administrative uses of park natural resources, this section provides examples of some of these uses and identifies the existing procedures that should be followed to ensure protection of park resources.

Policy and Program Objectives

NPS management policy on the use of natural resources is primarily directed to the visiting public and special users. The objective in this policy is to perpetuate and protect the park’s natural ecosystems and native species while providing an enjoyable visitor experience. NPS Management Policies specifically address the administrative uses of resources only in regard to use of materials from borrow pits, use of soils and plants salvaged from construction sites, and use of water. However, it can be reasonably inferred that superintendents and park staff are responsible for achieving these same objectives in all types of administrative undertakings that may affect park resources.


See the discussion of general authorities in the Introduction to the Reference Manual.

Relationship to Other Guidance

Related guidance is provided in DO/RM 40 Dams and Appurtenant Works; DO/RM 53 Special Park Uses;DO/RM 12  Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis, and Decision-making;DO/RM 28 Cultural Resource Management; DO 41 Wilderness Preservation and Management,and DO/RM 65 Explosives Use and Blasting Safety. See also the following Special Directives: 80-6, Limitation for Construction of Buildings in National Parks; 82-6, Policy on Dead and Down Wood and Wood Products; 83-4, Military Operations in the National Park System; 87-3, Conservation of Archeological Resources; 89-1, Concessions Planning Considerations for General Management Plans and Development Concept Plans; and 91-6, Field Guidance on Implementing the NPS Management Policies Re: Administrative Use of In-Park Borrow Material.See also Director’s Order 77-1, Wetland Protection and 77-2, Floodplain Management.

In this Reference Manual, see Backcountry Recreation Management, Integrated Pest Management, Nonnative Species Management, Minerals Management, Environmental Compliance, Research Administration and Collections, Special Use Permit, and Public Education.

Program Guidance

Administrative uses of park natural resources may result from maintenance, interpretive, resource management, or research activities. Examples include:

  • use of locally obtained park resource materials for trail construction, maintenance, or rehabilitation;
  • use of native seed or other locally obtained plant materials for restoration of native groundcover in previously disturbed sites;
  • materials, such as sand, gravel, stone, dead and down wood, and wood products that are extracted, quarried, or harvested to provide locally available (and less costly) materials for road and bridge construction, firewood, etc.;
  • grazing of pack horses and other stock;
  • construction of clearing for helispots;
  • other site use for a variety of structures and utilities;
  • park interpretive programs that provide “hands-on” experiences for the visitor, such as living history displays of plants and animals or gold-panning experiences;
  • research activities, including direct consumption of resources as well as impacts upon visitor experience;
  • use of administrative vehicles, vessels, and planes in wilderness areas or adjacent to backcountry visitors;
  • communications equipment and radio towers.

To ensure adequate protection of resources from administrative functions, all administrative uses of resources should be documented in an approved resource management plan. Where possible, sites intended for administrative uses should be documented as part of the management zoning in the general management plan.

All actions taken by superintendents that affect resources must be in compliance with NEPA. Actions within existing or potential wilderness must meet the guidance for wilderness activities found within DO 41 Wilderness. Exceptions or exclusions for actions that are administrative are identified in DO/RM 12 Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis, and  Decision-making. In addition, all actions that may affect historic or prehistoric properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places must be in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.

Roles and Responsibilities

The Director of the National Park Service establishes and approves servicewide natural resource policies and standards. The Director is ultimately responsible for establishing natural resource programs that conserve natural resources unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations and for ensuring that such programs are in compliance with directives, policies, and laws.

The Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science (ADNRSS), has functional authority, often through a subordinate division or office, for developing policies and standards for the Director’s approval; providing policy oversight of NPS natural resource programs related to administrative uses, including evaluating the results of field performance in complying with directives, policies, and laws; providing direct assistance to parks in specific program areas; administering natural resource programs relating to administrative use for which the ADNRSS has direct authority.

Natural Resource Stewardship and Science (or other Washington Office) divisions/offices exercise the Associate Director’s responsibility by administering specific natural resource programs, including those that provide direct assistance to parks in carrying out natural resource activities and in interpreting natural resource policies, regulations, and guidance; formulating servicewide natural resource standards, policies, and regulations; developing and promulgating methods, procedures, and guidelines to help parks conduct effective reviews of requests for administrative uses of park lands; and carrying out functional oversight within assigned program areas.

The regional director, through or with the assistance of an assistant or associate regional director is responsible for ensuring that evaluations and actions on proposed administrative uses of park lands within the region are uniformly implemented in compliance with directives, policies, and law; and identifying regional coordinators and contacts for specific program areas, where required, who can provide information and data about park natural resources and natural resource programs to the Washington Office.

Support office natural resource staff and/or cluster or regional natural resource program coordinators have responsibility for assisting parks in needs identification; data collection and analysis; planning, program, and project development; and for providing advice on scientific and natural resource management issues. Support office natural resource staff have responsibility for assisting parks: in review of individual cases in relationship to policies and guidelines relating to administrative uses of parks, in being familiar with the body of such policies and guidelines, in referral of park staff to subject matter experts, and in noting to the regional director issues related to policy and guidelines.

The superintendent is responsible for understanding the park’s natural resources and their condition. The superintendent is responsible for establishing and managing park natural resource programs and ensuring that they comply with directives, policies, and laws. The superintendent is responsible for examining all internal park operations requiring administrative use of park lands for potential impacts on natural resources. The superintendent is responsible for ensuring that required planning, compliance, and documentation procedures are followed. The superintendent must consult with qualified specialists prior to approving specific activities that affect resources.

The park natural resource manager, on behalf of the superintendent, carries out needs assessments and planning and conducts operational natural resource management activities in compliance with directives, policies, and laws. The park natural resource manager carries out assessments of proposed administrative uses of park lands, evaluating the potential of the impacts based upon a knowledge of the park’s resources, policies, and guidelines related to administrative uses of park lands and the proposed activities.

Administrative Uses of Resources Table of Contents | RM#77 Table of Contents
update on 02/05/2004  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/Rm77/adminuse.cfm   I  Email: Contact Us
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