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Special Studies

Ever wonder how a new area is added to the National Park System, National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, or the National Trails System? Congress directs the Department of the Interior through legislation to undertake studies of sites to provide expert analysis about the resource qualities at the site and alternatives for protection. The special resource and other study processes are designed to provide Congress with critical information used in the legislative process of designating a new unit. The National Park Service generally conducts these studies for the Department of the Interior.

Criteria for designation of new units of the National Park System

Potential new units of the national park system must:

  1. possess nationally significant resources,
  2. be a suitable addition to the system,
  3. be a feasible addition to the system, and
  4. require direct NPS management or administration instead of alternative protection by other agencies or the private sector.

A special resource study process will evaluate different management options to aid in making this determination.

For more information, visit Criteria for New National Parks and NPS Management Policies 2006, chapter 1.

Designation of new components or units of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System

River studies determine:

  1. whether the river is eligible for designation based on its free-flowing condition and water quality, and the presence of one or more outstandingly remarkable values that are rare, unique or exemplary,
  2. the appropriate classification - “wild,” “scenic,” or “recreational” - for the river, and
  3. whether the river is suitable for designation, based on the extent of public support, feasibility of managing the river to protect its values, and consistency with other public uses of the waterway.

For rivers flowing through non-federal areas, the designation determination would be in the category of a Partnership Wild and Scenic River, which relies on cooperative management by the governing entities along the river.

For more information, visit NPS Partnership Wild & Scenic River Studies and Interagency Wild & Scenic River Coordinating Council River Studies.

Establishment of a new unit of the National Trails System

National scenic and national historic trails require four steps to become fully established:

  1. An amendment to the National Trails System Act requesting a feasibility study.
  2. The feasibility study (usually conducted by the National Park Service).
  3. If the feasibility study recommends establishment, an act of Congress adding the trail to the National Trails System.
  4. Once the trail is established, a comprehensive management and use plan, outlining the roles of partners (including the Federal Government) the full length of the trail. This is usually conducted by the trail's administering agency.

National recreation trails are established (or, more precisely, recognized) by either the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture. Within those departments, there are procedures for initiating and processing applications for these types of trails.

For more information, please visit General Information at National Trails System.

Special Studies

Park Project Title
Intermountain Regional Office George W. Bush Childhood Home Reconnaissance Survey
Pacific West Regional Office Goldfield Reconnaissance Survey
Midwest Regional Office New Philadelphia Townsite Reconnaissance Survey
Midwest Regional Office Pullman Historic District Reconnaissance Survey
Northeast Regional Office Reconnaissance Survey of the Tidal Delaware River
Intermountain Regional Office San Luis Valley and Central Sangre de Cristo Mountains Reconnaissance Survey
National Park Service Sewall-Belmont House Feasibility Study
Yosemite National Park Wawona Golf Course Geotechnical Investigation
Northeast Regional Office Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the Nashua River
Northeast Regional Office Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers
Northeast Regional Office Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the York River
Alexander Hamilton Estate Grange and Other Sites Alexander Hamilton Estate Grange and Other Sites, Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Study of Aternatives and Environmental Assessment
Battle of Camden Special Resource Study Battle of Camden
Northeast Regional Office Battle of Matewan Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Blackstone River Valley Special Resource Study
National Park Service Buffalo Soldiers Study
National Trails System Butterfield Overland Trail Special Resource Study
Southeast Regional Office Castle Nugent Farms Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Cesar Chavez Special Resource Study
Battle of Franklin Civil War Battle of Franklin Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Coltsville Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area Study
Curecanti National Recreation Area Curecanti Resource Protection Study
Northeast Regional Office Delaware National Coastal Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Flushing Remonstrance Special Resource Study
Southeast Regional Office Fort King Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Great Falls Historic District Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Harriet Beecher Stowe House Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study
Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site Harry S Truman Birthplace Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Honouliuli Special Resource Study
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail Ice Age Floods Study of Alternatives and Environmental Assessment
Midwest Regional Office Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Extension Study
Denver Service Center Lower Mississippi SRS
Manhattan Project National Historical Park Manhattan Projects Sites
Denver Service Center Mill Springs Battlefield Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office National D-Day Memorial Special Resource Study
Midwest Regional Office New Philadelphia Special Resource Study
Midwest Regional Office Newtonia Battlefields Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resource Study
River Raisin National Battlefield Park River Raisin Battlefield Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office Rota Special Resource Study
Pacific West Regional Office San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study
Shepherdstown Battlefield Shepherdstown Battlefield Special Resource Study/Environmental Assessment
Southern Campaign of the Revolution HAS Southern Campaign of the Revolution Heritage Area Study
Intermountain Regional Office Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial Special Resource Study
Fort San Geronimo Special Resource Study for Fort San Gerónimo site and related resources in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Southeast Regional Office Special Resource Study, Miami Circle - Miami, Florida
Midwest Regional Office St. Louis Soldiers’ Memorial Military Museum Special Resource Study
Midwest Regional Office Ste. Genevieve Special Resource Study
Northeast Regional Office Stonewall Reconnaissance Survey
Southeast Regional Office Virginia Key Beach Park Special Resource Study
Flagstaff Area National Monuments WACA Special Resource Study
National Park Service Waco Mammoth Site Special Resource Study
Southeast Regional Office West Hunter Street Baptist Church Special Resource Study
Wolf House Wolf House Special Resource Study