A Carrizo Plain National Monument sign stands in a large valley with mountains in the background.
Rafting the Kern River Three Pump Jacks, Midway-Sunset Oilfield Painted Rock. Carrizo Plain National Monument. Poppy Piedras Blancas Lightstation, San Simeon
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Chapter 3
General Management Processes

Standard Practices

All proposed actions on or affecting public lands or resources under Bureau jurisdiction are reviewed by an interdisciplinary team to determine if they are in conformance with the existing planning base. The existing planning base includes law, executive order, regulation, policy and land use plans (see Box 1). If the action is in conformance with the existing planning base, it is then reviewed for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance.  Proposed actions generally fall into one of four NEPA categories: 1) actions which are exempt from NEPA; 2) actions which are categorically excluded; 3) actions which are covered in an existing NEPA environmental document, and 4) actions which require preparation of an Environmental Assessment (see Box 2). In a rare instance, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is required.

As actions are proposed they are evaluated by an interdisciplinary team to determine which NEPA category they fit in. If there is insufficient information regarding the resources of the project area, a field inventory may be completed.  A key task for the team is to quantify and qualify the potential impacts of a proposed action. Impacts to a variety of resource values are considered (see Box 3). The team then develops site specific mitigation measures to minimize the potential impacts. These mitigation measures are actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate potential impacts.  There are five general categories of mitigation:

1. Avoiding the impact by not taking certain actions or parts of actions,
2. Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation,
3. Rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment
4. Reducing or eliminating the impact over time, and
5. Compensating for the impact by replacing or providing substitute resources or environments.

The interdisciplinary team also evaluates whether additional steps specified under other laws or regulations may be required (e.g. National Historic Preservation Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Endangered Species Act).

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Box 1. Four Common NEPA Categories 



Exempt Actions

The three major types of actions which are exempt from NEPA procedural or documentation requirements are: 1)  congressionally exempt actions, 2) emergency actions and 3) rejections of proposed actions based on statutory or regulatory authority. If an action is exempt from NEPA, then no further NEPA review is conducted. Review and compliance for other laws and regulations, however, may still be conducted.

Categorically Excluded Actions

Certain categories of actions have been determined to have an insignificant effect and generally do not require preparation of an EA or EIS. This list of categorically excluded actions is determined by the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management at a national level. If an action is categorically excluded, it is compared to a list of exceptions. The list of exceptions describe circumstances where an activity with normally insignificant effects might be considered to have significant effects. If one or more exception circumstances apply to the proposed action, the proposal may be modified so the circumstances no longer apply. If modifications are not possible, then an EA or EIS is prepared.

If no exception circumstance applies to the proposed action, the interdisciplinary team documents the project details, reviews the project for compliance with other laws and regulations, and determines if there are any special stipulations for approving the action.

Previously Analyzed Actions

If an action has been addressed in an existing NEPA document, the interdisciplinary team will review the existing NEPA document to determine if it adequately addresses the proposed action. If the proposed action is adequately addressed, the determination will be documented. If the existing document does not adequately address the proposed action, a new EA will be prepared.

Preparation of an Environmental Assessment

An interdisciplinary team is assembled to review project design, identify impacts and develop mitigation. Project design is reviewed against standard operating procedures or practices that pertain to the particular type of project. A standard operating practice for a powerline might be to use a design that prevents electrocution of large birds. Potential impacts of the action are identified after review and only necessary modification of the project. Measures to reduce the potential impacts, mitigation measures, are developed. If after modification and application of mitigation measures the residual impacts of the action are not significant, the project may be approved. If the residual impacts are significant, the project is modified further or an EIS is prepared



Box 2. Examples of Elements in the Existing Planning Base



Law & Executive Order




National Environmental Policy Act

Federal Land Policy and Management Act

National Historic Preservation Act


Resource Protection Act

American Indian Religious Freedom Act

Endangered Species Act

Executive Order 11990 of May 1977 (Wetlands)

Code of Federal Regulations

Onshore Oil and Gas Orders

BLM Manual Series

Instruction Memoranda

Caliente RMP

Carrizo Plain Natural Area Management Plan

(Replaces the Soda Lake and Elkhorn Plain ACEC Plans)

South Sierra Management Plan

(Replaces the draft Walker Pass CRMP)


Allotment Management Plans

North Temblor

Wagy Flat

Short Canyon

Cholla Canyon

Cultural Resource Management Plans



Box 3.  Examples of Resource Values Considered During NEPA Compliance Review


Air Quality
Cultural Resources
Hazardous Materials
Livestock Grazing

Native American Concerns
Local Land Use Plan Conformance
T&E Species

Visual Resources
Water Quality
Wild&Scenic Rivers
Wildlife Habitat

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