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NEPA Frequently Asked Questions


What is NEPA?
Photo of Stack of PapersThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an environmental law enacted in 1969. It applies only to federal agencies and programs that are federally funded. The law requires that agencies must consider the environmental impacts of proposed projects or actions prior to taking any significant action.
 
NEPA facilitates a public involvement process  by having the acting agency publish an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] or Environmental Assessment [EA] showing what the environmental impacts of a proposed action will be or showing “no significant impact,” and asking the public to participate in the planning process by providing information and comments about its proposed action.
 
What is multiple use land?
BLM public lands have many uses, including recreation, energy development, and livestock grazing. They also serve as important habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife. These uses often overlap creating multiple use lands. Thus a permit may be given for grazing or some other purpose to one party while the mineral rights may be held by another party. BLM may also be working with partners to restore or enhance wildlife habitat on the same parcel. Other areas are set aside as wilderness or special recreation areas, but still host a variety of land uses.
 
The public lands that BLM manages are defined by law as multiple use lands by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. These ‘working landscapes’ are managed to sustain their health, diversity and productivity for Americans to use and enjoy today, while maintaining their integrity and sustainability for years to come.
 
What is a Resource Management Plan?
A Resource Management Plan (RMP) designates land uses over large areas of public lands. It’s prepared by the BLM to serve as a guide for managing public lands and resources. 
 
RMPs provide the basis for all actions taken by the BLM that affect public lands and mineral resources. The planning process also serves as the primary tool in providing the public a voice in how the public lands are used. 
 
RMPs are key tools used by the BLM to maintain the integrity and sustainability of public lands. They provide a snapshot of permitted land uses and activities in specific areas. They also include Environmental Impact Statements to identify sensitive habitats and other resources to prevent or mitigate impacts from land management activities. 
 
What is an RMP Revision?
Once an RMP is created it will be in place for 15-20 years. While these plans will remain in a working capacity certain factors may require the BLM to review and possibly make revisions or amendments. Reasons for amendments may include changes in laws and regulations, changes in resource management issues, demands on public lands, changes in population size and location, new technologies and new data and information indicating that parts of a plan might be out of date. A revision, unlike an amendment is a complete re-write of an RMP.
 
What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

An EIS is a document that accompanies   an RMP. This statement is required by NEPA whenever the Federal Government takes a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. The first section is an introduction including a statement of the purpose and need of the proposed action. Second a description of the affected environment is given. Third a range of alternatives to the proposed action are stated followed lastly by an analysis of the environmental impacts of each of the possible alternatives. 

If the action is not likely to cause a significant impact then a full EIS may not be required. Rather the agency can prepare a shorter document called an Environmental Assessment (EA) with a finding of “no significant impact.”
 
How can I obtain a copy of an RMP?
Copies of draft and final RMP/EIS’s can be obtained or reviewed at the local library or from the BLM office that prepared the RMP. Current plans are also available on state and local BLM websites.
 
Is there an RMP for all BLM managed land?
Yes. The BLM develops RMPs for all of the public lands that it manages.
 
What is Collaborative Planning?

Collaborative planning efforts involve building a wide range of external and internal working relationships. Working relationships help the BLM achieve meaningful results in land use planning initiatives. Individuals, communities and governments working together toward commonly understood objectives yield a significant improvement in the stewardship of public lands. These relationships are built from the earliest stages and continue throughout the planning process. To cultivate these relationships, an effective outreach strategy will keep all interested parties informed and welcome their involvement.