Exmoor was designated as a National Park in 1954. Since then the co-ordination of work to achieve National Park purposes in the area has been undertaken by local government - first by the county councils and, since 1997, by a free-standing authority. The authority decides what measures can be taken to achieve these purposes, which are:
- To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks; and
- To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Parks by the public
Like other public authorities it has a range of statutory duties and one of these is to foster the social and economic well-being of the local community. However, this is mainly the responsibility of the District and County Councils and the authority should not incur additional expenditure for the duty. It does not have the range of responsibilities of such councils and is known as a 'single purpose' authority.