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Agency to improve policy, procedures on how we comply with NEPA

WASHINGTON — The Forest Service recently published in the Federal Register a public notice seeking comment about how we can improve the agency’s policies and procedures used to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is a formal invitation for the public to participate in shaping the proposed rule and starts the notice and public comment process in motion. The 30-day public comment period closes Feb. 2. The agency hopes to publish a proposed rule in late spring.

The agency’s procedures (36 CFR Part 220, FSM 1950, and FSH 1909.15) were designed at a time when the agency had greater capacity. The procedures have become unnecessarily complex and burdensome and are in need of reform. The agency’s procedures to comply with NEPA were last updated in 2008.

The Forest Service plans to update our policies and procedures to provide for greater efficiency in how the agency complies with NEPA. We anticipate this effort will help achieve the following objectives:

  • Increase efficiency in moving through the NEPA process.
  • Improve application of the agency’s process on landscape-scale restoration projects.
  • Make the agency’s categorical exclusion process available for additional activities with minimal effects on natural resources, such as certain restoration projects, special use authorizations, and activities to maintain and manage sites, facilities and associated infrastructure.
  • Improve coordination with other agencies on multi-agency projects.

The look at the policies and procedure is a key activity under the environmental analysis and decision-making change effort. The Forest Service will continue to follow the law and deliver science-based, high quality environmental analysis that leads to sound land management decisions and honors stewardship responsibilities.

If you have any questions or would like further information, the following are points of contact:

  • Cecilia Seesholtz, Acting Director, NFS-WO, cseesholtz@fs.fed.us, 208-830-9691;
  • Jim Smalls, Assistant Director, National Environmental Policy Act, NFS-WO, jsmalls@fs.fed.us, 202-205-1475; and
  • Sam Gaugush, National Environmental Policy Act Specialist, NFS-WO, sfgaugush@fs.fed.us, 202-205-0917.