March 26, 2008

In Reply Refer To:

1790 (FA-600/WO-200) P

Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-099
Expires: 09/30/2009
State Directors
Use of the Healthy Forests Initiative Hazardous Fuels Reduction Categorical
Program Areas:  Fire, Forestry, Rangeland Management, Wildlife

Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) outlines the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) use of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Healthy Forest Initiative Hazardous Fuels Reduction Categorical Exclusion (DOI HFI CX). 

Policy:  Due to recent litigation regarding the United States Department of Agriculture Healthy Forest Initiative Hazardous Fuel Reduction Categorical Exclusion (USDA HFI CX ), BLM offices are directed to discontinue issuing any new decisions approving projects that rely on the DOI HFI CX set forth in 516 Departmental Manual 2, Appendix 1, 1.12 that are within jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Oregon/Washington)

For projects outside the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, BLM may continue to utilize the DOI HFI CX, as appropriate, and should continue to carefully and thoroughly apply the extraordinary circumstances provisions set forth in 516 Departmental Manual 2, Appendix 1, 2.

Timeframe:  This IM is effective immediately upon receipt.

Budget Impact:  Field offices may incur increased project planning costs due to the need to complete environmental assessments for projects that could have been implemented with the DOI HFI CX.
Background:  On December 5, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared the USDA HFI CX, developed in 2003 under the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative, invalid and indicated that it will order the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to:
  • 1.      Issue an injunction against further use of the USDA HFI CX.
  • 2.      Determine which activities approved after October 8, 2004, under the USDA HFI  should be enjoined.
While the DOI HFI CX was not specifically at issue in this case, the DOI HFI CX was developed in conjunction with the USDA HFI CX.  In view of this circumstance, and as a result of consultation with the Solicitor’s Office, the BLM has elected to discontinue issuing any new decisions within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit that rely on the DOI HFI CX. The Circuit’s ruling does not extend to other categorical exclusions. 

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  For affected States, this instruction memorandum supersedes direction provided in the BLM NEPA Handbook (H-1790-1) regarding use of the DOI HFI CX.

Coordination:  This IM has been coordinated among the Renewable Resources and Planning and the Fire and Aviation Directorates and the Office of the Solicitor.

Contact:  If you have any questions, please contact Deb Rawhouser, Chief, Planning and Science Policy at 202-452-0354, or Ted Milesnick, Fire Planning and Fuels Management at 208-387-5198.

Signed by:                                                                    Authenticated by:
James L. Caswell                                                          Robert M. Williams
Director                                                                        Division of IRM Governance,WO-560