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Public Lands: Operations
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
Preventing Pollution
Public Education
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Alternative Transportation in the National Parks
An introduction to transportation needs in parks and corresponding impacts to the visitors experienc...

Consolidated Screening Checklist For Automotive Repair Facilities
Click on "Env. Checklist" in left-hand navigation bar. This quick checklist is a self-assessment to...

Public lands support a variety of outdoor recreation activities and facilities including: trails, campsites, cabins and cottages, lodges, golf courses, ski slopes, marinas, museums, swimming pools, and livestock operations. In addition to maintenance and administrative support required for these facilities, many also provide visitor education and interpretation services. This section provides an overview of common management areas and describes the waste generated.

Facility Management

Some public lands construct and maintain facilities such as visitor centers, restrooms/outhouses, water and wastewater treatment, equipment maintenance, offices, hotels, employee living quarters, remote cabins, stores, filling stations, restaurants, museums, etc. Facility maintenance (structural and equipment maintenance, pest control, interior and exterior lighting, minor remodeling, grounds keeping, janitorial, and solid waste removal) can be provided either with on-site employees or through contracts to private businesses. Wastes from these activities include:

Planning, Construction and Renovation

  • consumption of land due to size of building footprint
  • material waste and impacts of materials used (including waste and pollution from production, transportation and operation)
  • water / wastewater
  • asbestos
  • lead paint

Maintenance and Operation

  • inefficient use of energy
  • air emissions from fossil fuel burning
  • toxic or hazardous chemicals from cleaning, pest control and equipment maintenance
  • water / wastewater
  • sanitary and domestic wastes

Procurement and Leasing

Procurement and leasing can set the pace for environmental leadership or create a barrier to sustainability. Waste is created when inventories are too full (products expire or are used in excess) or products are purchased with too much packaging. When hazardous materials are purchased, pollution, liability and regulatory issues may exist.

Waste and pollution are also generated in product development, transport to the consumer and during use. It is the responsibility of procurement and leasing to consdier each of these to minimize toxic chemicals, energy and water use, materials consumption and pollution, air emissions and packaging. For more detailed information, refer to the Green Procurement topic hub.

Transportation Management

Public lands seek to provide access to visitors and employees while minimizing impacts to habitats, wildlife, natural processes and historical heirlooms. This involves infrastructure planning, construction, and maintenance as well as vehicle fueling, repair and maintenance. Visitor education may also be a component of transportation management. The following are typical waste and environmental impacts that may result from transportation activities.

Infrastructure Planning, Construction and Maintenance

  • bisection of habitats, migration routes and alteration of natural processes due to location of transportation routes
  • congestion and noise from large numbers of visitors causing degradation of visitor experience and wildlife stress
  • toxic paints and de-icing chemicals

Use / Operation of Vehicles and Watercraft

  • sanitary wastes and domestic wastes from on-board living
  • air emissions from fossil fueled vehicles and watercraft
  • polluted runoff from fueling stations, parking lots, roads and watercraft

Fueling, Repair and Maintenance of Automobiles and Watercraft

  • oil filters, batteries (lead, acids and alkalis), tires, aerosol cans, scrap metal, shop towels/rags and absorbents, mercury switches from trunk or hood repairs
  • used oil, radiator coolants, transmission fluids, brake fluids, waste solvents, refrigerants (CFCs) from air conditioner and refrigeration equipment
  • contaminated washwater and trap or separator sludge, from cleaning activities
  • overflows, runoff during fueling
  • petroleum leakage and tank draws containing toxic residues from underground storage tanks and cleanout
  • paint wastes and emissions, spent solvents, toxic wastes from paint removal, painting processes and clean up
  • metal residue from machining

Hospitality Services

Includes visitor services such as campgrounds, food service, lodging, housekeeping and office or conference accommodations. Private concessionaires may have contracts to perform these functions with oversite by the public land manager. Wastes from these activities include:

  • food waste (organics), fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from food preparation and storage
  • energy and water
  • toxic whitening, sanitizing and deodorizing chemicals from cleaning and linen activities
  • used containers and partial contents of guest amenities
  • solid waste such as condiments, glass, waste paper, metals, packaging and plastic

Visit both the Hospitality and Food Services topic hubs for details on operations within the hospitality sector.

Landscape Management

Landscape management on public lands can range from the protection of natural resources and restoration of natural systems to the planting and maintenance of shrubs, trees, flowers and lawn for educational, aesthetic, or energy efficiency purposes. Management activities include planting, pest control, and maintenance in urban, rural and pristine settings. Waste and pollution produced in these activities include:

  • water and energy waste,
  • harmful chemicals,
  • sediment from erosion,
  • invasive non-native plants
  • organic waste

Solid/Hazardous Waste Management

Solid and hazardous waste management operations are responsible for reducing the amount of waste generated in all of the other areas of operation, preventing pollution and restoring disturbed and contaminated land and water to healthy conditions.

Links in this section give more information on the specific operations mentioned here. They come from a variety of sources including public land management agencies and organizations dealing with these same issues in the private sector.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Public Lands Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 12/4/2012