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U.S. Antarctic Environmental Stewardship

Protection of the environment is a high priority for the Antarctic Treaty System, and therefore the U.S. Government. NSF produces and disseminates information to educate U.S. Antarctic Program participants (USAP) about their environmental protection responsibilities and the penalties for noncompliance. Audiences include USAP participants and nongovernmental entities such as tourists, tour operators, and adventurers.

The Treaty protects native Antarctic wildlife and habitats, and has set aside Antarctic Specially Protected Areas for conservation and scientific purposes. To work on these protected organisms and areas, scientists must apply for permits from their home country. For more, check out the Antarctic Conservation Act and Permits site. Special regulations exist for meteorite collection. For more, check out the U.S. Regulations Governing Antarctic Meteorites.

All activities within the U.S. Antarctic Program undergo environmental review, must comply with Treaty mandated Antarctic environmental standards, and are reported on to the Treaty at large. For more, check out the U.S. Antarctic Environmental Documents List.

The NSF operates the USAP in accordance with the following international treaties and U.S. laws:
Antarctic Treaty (1959): sets aside Antarctica for peace and science, provides for information exchange and international cooperation, and prohibits military fortifications, nuclear explosions, disposal of radioactive waste, and testing of weapons.
Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964): protects native birds, mammals, and plants and sets up protected areas that require a permit for entry.
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972): enhances protection for Antarctic seals.
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980): ensures that marine harvesting and research activities are conducted in accordance with the objectives of conservation and rational use.
Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991): protects the environment through annexes on marine pollution, fauna and flora, environmental impact assessments, waste management, and protected areas and prohibits all activities related to mineral resources other than scientific research.
The Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-541), as amended by the Antarctic Science, Tourism, and Conservation Act of 1996 (PL 104-227): implement the Treaty agreements in U.S. law.

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