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National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Geological Sciences (GEO)
Polar Programs (PLR)
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Division of Polar Programs
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Polar Environment, Health and Safety
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United States Antarctic Program
Polar Programs Advisory Committee (1998–2013)
Antarctic Conservation Act
Antarctic Conservation Act: Regulations and management plans (NSF 01-151)
U.S. Antarctic Treaty Information Exchange
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bullet USAP Environmental Stewardship and annual list of environmental documents
bullet Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations
bullet U.S. Regulations Governing Antarctic Meteorites
bullet ACA Application and Permit Form
Antarctic Research Opportunities and Proposal Guide (NSF 13-527)
Committee on Environmental Protection (CEP) (International Antarctic Treaty organization)
CEP list of Antarctic Protected Sites


Antarctic Conservation Act

Public Law 95-541 (as amended by Public Law 104-227), the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, protects native mammals, birds, and plants and their ecosystems. The law applies to all U.S. citizens, whether or not they go to Antarctica with the U.S. Antarctic Program. It applies to all expeditions to Antarctica that originate from the United States.

Unless authorized by permit, the Act makes it unlawful to:

  • take native mammals or birds
  • engage in harmful interference
  • enter specially designated areas
  • introduce species to Antarctica
  • introduce substances designated as pollutants
  • discharge designated pollutants
  • import certain antarctic items into the USA

The Act provides penalties of up to $11,000 and 1-year imprisonment for each violation. Other penalties could include removal from Antarctica, rescission of a grant, or sanctions by your employer.

The Protocol on Environmental Protection signed in 1991 by representatives of the United States and other Antarctic Treaty nations entered into force in 1998. The Protocol strengthens antarctic environmental standards. Its requirements have incorporated into U.S. regulations under the Antarctic Conservation Act.

The book Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-541), with Regulations, Descriptions and Maps of Special Areas, Permit Application Form, Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, and Protocol on Environmental Protection (NSF 01-151 at nsf01151/start.jsp) is free from NSF.

Applicants should note that processing a permit application takes approximately 90 days. During this time a summary of the permit application is published in the Federal Register (a required 30-day public comment period [Section 670.9(g)]) so that any member of the public can comment on it. The Foundation evaluates the public comments and performs an internal review. It then approves the application, approves it with modifications, or disapproves it.

Questions on the Conservation Act should be directed to the Permit Office, preferably by e-mail:

E-mail: acapermits@nsf.gov

Or by mail:

Permit Office
Division of Polar Programs, Room 755
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230

Phone: 7032928030
Fax: 7032929081

The Antarctic Conservation Act Application and Permit Form may be downloaded and printed directly from the Web and then filled out. All completed forms should be submitted to the Permit Officer in NSF's Division of Polar Programs, preferably by e-mail, at the address above.

An list of antarctic protected sites is maintained by the Committee on Environmental Protection, which was established in 1998 by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. The Committee provides advice and formulates recommendations for the Antarctic Treaty Consultation Parties, as part of its responsibilities under the Protcol.

Permits are discussed in the summary section of Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95541) (NSF 01-151) and in the Division of Polar Programs' Antarctic Research solicitation (NSF 13-527).

Last updated: 02 December 2014

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