National Environmental Policy Act
Most of the actions the BLM takes to implement its land-use plans are reviewed under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), either through the production of detailed Environmental Impact Statements, less-complex Environmental Assessments, or other related documents including:
Environmental Impact Statements (EISs): An EIS is a comprehensive document that analyzes the impacts of a federal action that will have a significant effect on the human environment. An EIS describes the purpose and need for a proposed action, describes the affected environment, discusses alternatives to a proposed action, and analyzes environmental impacts and ways to mitigate them. An EIS is typically a longer document than an EA, and it offers more opportunities for public comment or involvement than an EA. An EIS has more procedural requirements, and therefore takes more time to prepare on average than an EA. Each EIS is completed with a Record of Decision, which documents the BLM’s decision as to how it will, or will not, move forward with a proposed action.
Environmental Assessments (EAs): An EA is a document that identifies environmental effects of a proposed action and determines their significance. If it seems unlikely that a proposed action will have a significant effect on the environment, the BLM will prepare an EA. An EA describes the purpose and need for a proposed action, describe the affected environment, discuss alternatives to a proposed action, and analyzes environmental impacts and ways to mitigate them. If the EA shows that the proposed action does not have a signifcant effect on the environment, it will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). In some cases, if the analysis completed during an EA shows that the proposed action will have a significant effect on the environment, the BLM will complete a full EIS.
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSIs): If, after completing an EA, the BLM determines that an action will not have a significant effect on the environment, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is prepared. This determination confirms that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. The BLM documents its FONSI in a Decision Record.
Determinations of NEPA Adequacy (DNAs): If a review of existing EISs or EAs show that the BLM has already covered a proposed action, it can rely on an internal Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA). These determinations also address conformance with approved land use plans. The BLM documents its DNAs through a worksheet that is kept with the project file.
Categorical Exclusions (CEs): Categorical Exclusions are a category of actions the BLM has identified that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. These include such actions as installing protective grates on abandoned mines or permitting temporary livestock feeding during periods of drought. In some cases, Congress has created CEs for activities such as drilling for oil and gas on a site which has hosted similar efforts in the past five years. The BLM does not prepare NEPA documents for categorical exclusions.
Master Leasing Plans (MLPs): These plans establish a framework for determining which areas are appropriate for responsible exploration and development of oil and gas resources while protecting the area’s conservation resources.
Visit the Council on Environmental Quality's website to learn more about NEPA.