The National Park Service (NPS) carries out its responsibilities in parks and programs under the authority of Federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, and in accord with policies established by the Director of the National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior. The NPS’ ban on drone use is a policy, not a law or regulation. Specifically, Policy Memorandum 14-05, released by the National Park Service (NPS) director in June 2014, directed each superintendent to use the authority under 36 CFR 1.5 (CFR is the Code of Federal Regulations) to prohibit the launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft, subject to the certain conditions and exceptions set forth in the memo.
Policies are designed to improve the internal management of the National Park Service. They are management tools, not enforceable legal tools.
Regulations are mechanisms for implementing laws and for enforcing established policies. Regulations have the force and effect of law, and violations of the same are punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both.
Laws are enacted by Congress with (and in some circumstances without) the approval of the President.
Section 1.5 gives the NPS its authority regarding “Closures and public use limits”. Section 1.5 (b) states in part: “Except in emergency situations, a closure, designation, use or activity restriction or condition, or the termination or relaxation of such, which is of a nature, magnitude and duration that will result in a significant alteration in the public use pattern of the park area, adversely affect the park's natural, aesthetic, scenic or cultural values, require a long-term or significant modification in the resource management objectives of the unit, or is of a highly controversial nature, shall be published as rulemaking in the Federal Register.”
The NPS has an additional burden. It must state the reason(s) the restriction, condition, public use limit or closure authorized by paragraph has been established, and an explanation of why less restrictive measures will not suffice.
In summary, the NPS appears to be implementing a policy, which it enforces as a regulation without going through the formal Federal rulemeaking process that includes soliciting public comment. Perhaps the NPS has taken steps about which I am unaware. I am not a lawyer and likely another reader has more accurate or more current information on this topic. I understand the NPS’ concerns but this may be a case where there is a more reasoned, less restrictive policy (regulation) that the NPS can implement rather than a total ban.