United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
California State Office
June 16, 1998
EMS TRANSMISSION: 6/16/98
Information Bulletin No. CA-98-74
From: State Director
Subject: Documenting NEPA Compliance in BLM Decisions
The recent Comb Wash ruling, IBLA 140-85, highlights the need to examine closely whether additional NEPA analysis is required in considering a proposed action, including the renewal of an existing permit or authorization. The following guidelines are provided to assist California field offices in determining the appropriate level of NEPA documentation. These guidelines apply to all Bureau programs.
A. NO ADDITIONAL NEPA ANALYSIS NEEDED
Additional NEPA analysis is not needed when any of the following criteria apply:
- Action is Congressionally exempt from NEPA -- Exempt actions are rare. Documentation requirements determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Action if a Categorical Exclusion (516 DM 6, Appendix 5) -- Indicated in the Decision Record the applicable Categorical Exclusion from current CX lists. Confirm that none of the exemptions apply.
- Action is fully consistent with an existing decision and specifically addressed in an existing NEPA document prepared by BLM -- This is an important determination. BLM had argued in Comb Wash that the existing RMP/EIS covered the action; however, IBLA found that the RMP/EIS did not contain sufficient detail to authorize the specific actions considered without additional analysis.
Some offices are using an "Administrative Determination" (AD) to document that an existing EA or EIS fully addresses the action. To avoid unnecessary paperwork, however, a brief statement need only be included in the Decision Record to document that existing analysis is sufficient. A separate AD is not needed.
B. ADDITIONAL NEPA ANALYSIS REQUIRED
A new or supplemental EA or EIS is required when any of the following criteria apply. Applicable portions of existing environmental documents should be incorporated by reference.
- Proposed action has not been addressed previously, is in a new location, or involves a significant modification to an existing action.
- Proposed action has been considered in a programmatic EIS or EA but a site-specific analysis is needed.
- There is significant new information, a major new issue, or a substantial change in circumstances relating to potential environmental effects of the proposed action.
C. DECISION RECORD
In all cases, a Decision Record (or Record of Decision for an EIS) is prepared at the conclusion of the NEPA process to document the decision in the administrative records of the field offices. The Decision Record must clearly provide the rationale for the authorized officer's decision. Programs such as Realty and grazing have separate decisions, processes and documentation requirements. In other programs, the NEPA decision record is the formal record of the decision process supporting a permit or authorization. Other key point to keep in mind:
- Avoid using "canned" statements in preparing the Record Decision.
- For minor actions, combine the Decision Record with the EA and FONSI, if a new EA is prepared.
- The timing of the Decision Record must be given careful consideration in relation to specific program requirements for issuance of permits or authorizations. Some programs (e.g., grazing, realty) have formal decision processes that must be coordinated with the NEPA process.
- If an appeal or protest paragraph is included in the Decision Record, ensure that the paragraph is consistent with the applicable regulations for the activity involved.
Acting State Director