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The 1998 National Parks Omnibus Management Act (54 United States Code 100507) established the process for identifying and authorizing studies of new national park units. Under the law, a study area must meet all four of the following criteria to be recommended as an addition to the national park system:

§ Contain nationally significant natural and/or cultural resources.
§ Represent a natural or cultural resource that is not already adequately represented in the national park system or is not comparably represented and protected for public enjoyment by another land-managing entity.
§ Must be (1) of sufficient size and appropriate configuration to ensure long-term protection of the resources and visitor enjoyment, and (2) capable of efficient administration by the National Park Service at a reasonable cost; important feasibility factors include landownership, acquisition costs, life cycle maintenance costs, access, threats to the resource, and staff or development requirements.
§ Require direct NPS management that is clearly superior to other management approaches.

An NPS planning team has been assembled to prepare the Mississippi Civil Rights Sites Special Resource Study. If the area does not meet all four of the criteria, the study will conclude with a negative finding. If a site is found to meet all four of the criteria, then the study team will analyze potential alternatives for managing the recommended sites. The findings of the study will then be transmitted by the NPS director to the secretary of the interior, who in turn will submit the report and management recommendations to Congress. It is then up to Congress to take action on legislation establishing a new unit of the national park system. Only Congress, through legislated action, or the president, through the use of the Antiquities Act, have the authority to establish a new unit of the National Park Service.

* indicates the current step in the planning process
Step 1. Information Gathering and Civic Engagement
Step 2. Special Resource Study Criteria Analysis
Step 3. Prepare Study Document
Step 4. Submit Study Document to Secretary of the Interior
Step 5. Secretary Transmits Study to Congress *