BLM revises NEPA Handbook
Designed to make environmental reviews more efficient
by Bureau of Land Management
April 27, 2008
The Bureau of Land Management announced new guidance designed to make its environmental reviews more effective and efficient.
The BLM published in the Federal Register a notice announcing the availability of the revised version of its handbook guiding implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA Handbook provides instructions, procedures, and examples for complying with the Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations and the Department of the Interior’s Departmental Manual guidance for implementing NEPA.
The objectives of the NEPA Handbook are to establish systematic practices for integrating NEPA into the planning and decision making processes used by the BLM, and to promote efficiency in the preparation and documentation of NEPA compliance. The NEPA Handbook is intended for use by BLM managers, field staff, and other personnel for oversight and compliance with NEPA within their program areas.
The NEPA Handbook was last revised in 1988. The current version is the result of nearly two years of work by a diverse team of BLM specialists who drafted the revised NEPA Handbook based on changes in Departmental Manual guidance regarding implementation of NEPA for public land management.
Revisions to the 1988 NEPA Handbook were designed to support decision making by BLM staff, as well as to avoid redundant or unnecessary documentation. Key changes in the new version include guidance on cumulative effects analysis; definition of issues requiring analysis; clarification of the meaning of “significant” effects; and discussion of public involvement requirements for environmental assessments and other proceedings.
In the notice, the BLM invites the public to share comments on the NEPA Handbook, though a formal comment period on the document was not opened.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 mandates that every Federal agency prepare a detailed statement of the effects of “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” The NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on an understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment.
In August 2007, the BLM published a set of revisions to the Department of the Interior’s Departmental Manual, which guides the BLM’s implementation of NEPA. The revisions to the Departmental Manual have also been incorporated into the NEPA handbook.
The BLM manages more land – 258 million surface acres – than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western States, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.