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Forest Service Home > Projects and Policies > Appeals > Related Information

Forest Service Environmental Appeals - Related Information

How do Appeals Work?

Forest Service line officers issue many resource management decisions each year, some of which are accompanied by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents (i.e. Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Assessments, and Categorical Exclusions). Many of these decisions are subject to an opportunity for administrative review of individuals’ or entities’ unresolved issues. In some cases these reviews are conducted before a final decision has been made, and in others it is made post-decisionally. Administrative reviews offered after a decision has been made are called appeal procedures. The public's rights and responsibilities to file an appeal are defined in specific appeal regulations.

Certain decisions related to the development, amendment, or revision of Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) may be appealed under optional appeal procedures available during the transition period between planning rules. These procedures were formerly in the Code of Federal Regulations at 36 CFR 217. Appeals of such decisions documented in Records of Decision (ROD) or Decision Notices (DN) and signed by a Regional Forester are referred to the Chief’s Office in Washington D.C., where the appeal and relevant records are reviewed. Similarly, appeals of RODs and DNs signed by a Forest Supervisor are referred to the Regional Forester’s office for the review. In both instances, the disposition of the appeal includes rendering an appeal decision or dismissing the appeal as a whole. The appeal decision can affirm the original plan decision, or reverse the plan decision in whole or in part.

Decisions related to projects require more site-specific analysis under NEPA. Many of these project proposals are subject to a pre-decisional administrative review called an objection process.

Decision-making at the project level can also entail giving authorization for certain uses of National Forest System lands. Examples of these authorizations include permits for access to intermingled private lands across National Forest System land, grazing and livestock use permits, mining plans of operations, permits for the use of mineral materials, and special use permits including those for particular recreational uses. Written decisions regarding the issuance, approval, or administration of written authorizations for the occupancy and use of National Forest System lands can be subject to appeal under 36 CFR 214 . Appeals of occupancy and use decisions are referred to the next highest agency level for review, as described above. Decisions are subject to one level of appeal and review, and that appeal decision is subject to review at the discretion of the Forest Service official two levels above the official who made the written authorization. Dismissal decisions under 36 CFR 214 are subject to only one level of discretionary review, and follow the same upward review path, depending on the person dismissing the appeal.

The Appeal Decision Report is an ongoing report that is generated in real-time, based on the most recent appeal decisions published by forests, regions, and the Washington Office.

How to Read Appeal Decisions
[design image] Guide showing the position and orientation of Appeal Response data. The first row contains Project Name and Project Administrative Unit. The second row contains Lead Appellant, Appeal Rule, Outcome, and Response Date and File Size (also a link to the document).

Fields 1 - 2: The first row contains the project name (Field 1) and Project Administrative Unit (Field 2). Each successive row contains the appeal responses associated with this project.

Field 3: The third field contains the name of the lead appellant with whom the appeal deciding unit maintains contact regarding the appeal outcome.

Field 4: The fourth field contains the appeal rule upon which the decision was based.

Field 5: The fifth field contains the outcome of the appeal - i.e. the Appeal Deciding Officer’s (ADO) response to the appeal.

Field 6: The sixth field contains the response date.

Field 7: The seventh field contains a link to a PDF version of the appeal decision itself.

Possible Appeal Outcomes:

Affirmed: The ADO has upheld the original NEPA decision.

Affirmed with Instructions: The ADO has upheld the original NEPA decision but issued specific instructions about the project decision.

Reversed: The ADO has reversed (i.e. cancelled) the original NEPA decision.

Dismissed: The ADO has dismissed the appeal itself for any of the following reasons:

  • Not Timely: The appeal was not received before the appeal filing period ended.

  • Relief Cannot be Granted: For various reasons, the Forest Service cannot grant the request in the appeal at this time.

  • Appeal Pending Other Authority: The decision being appealed is subject to other administrative processes. Therefore no response can be made to the appeal until these are complete.

  • No Comments Filed: The appellant did not participate in the pre-decisional comment process and therefore does not have standing to appeal the decision.

  • Forest Service Withdrew the Decision: The Forest Service has withdrawn the original NEPA decision; therefore, the appeal is no longer relevant.

  • Appellant Withdrew Appeal: The appellant has withdrawn the appeal.

  • Insufficient Info: The Forest Service has received insufficient information from the appellant and therefore cannot review the appeal as it was written or received.

  • Decision Not Subject to Appeal: The NEPA decision is of a type that is not subject to the appeal process; therefore the appeal is not relevant.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is our basic charter for protection of the environment. It establishes policy, sets goals, and provides means for carrying out the policy. NEPA procedures provide the direction to help public officials make decisions that are based on the understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment. NEPA procedures also require that environmental information is available to citizens before decisions are made and actions are taken that may affect the human environment. The decision documents related to plans and projects result from compliance with NEPA.

Also see the Forest Service NEPA website and the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPAnet website.

Read about Proposed Actions
The Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA) is published in January, April, July, and October. It contains a list of proposed actions that will soon begin or are currently undergoing environmental analysis and documentation. It provides information so that you can become aware of and indicate your interest in specific proposals before decisions are made. We encourage your early and ongoing involvement in any proposals of interest to you. Please click here to view the SOPA for a particular National Forest, Grassland, Scenic Area, Recreation Area, or Tall Grass Prairie.

Abbreviations and Definitions

A request to a higher authority for review of a decision.
A person or organization filing a notice of appeal. Usually, all administrative processes established by the Secretary or required by law must be exhausted before a person may bring a court action associated with planning decisions.
Appeal Decision
The determination made by the Appeal Deciding Officer regarding the final status of the NEPA decision being appealed.
Categorical Exclusion:
A category of actions, which generally do not individually or cumulatively have significant effect on the human environment, for which neither an Environmental Assessment nor Environmental Impact Statement is required. Additional information about a CE can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 30.
Decision Memo:
A decision document for an action that has been categorically excluded from documentation in an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Additional information about a DM can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 30.
Decision Notice:
A decision document resulting from an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact. Additional information about a DN can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 40.
Environmental Assessment:
A concise public document that briefly describes the environmental impacts of a proposal and alternatives, along with analysis for determining whether to prepare a Finding of No Significant Impact or an Environmental Impact statement. Additional information about an EA can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 40.
Environmental Impact Statement:
A detailed public document disclosing environmental impacts of a proposal and alternatives. Additional information about an EIS can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 20.
Record of Decision:
A decision document resulting from an Environmental Impact Statement. Additional information about a ROD can be found in Forest Service Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook 1909.15, Chapter 20.

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