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Examples of Responses to Substantive Comments

Last Page Update: July 29, 2010
Sample Format for Substantive Comments/Responses
Addressing a substantive comment will generally consist of a) the comment followed by a response and a corresponding modification to the EIS, or b) the comment followed by a response with no modification to the EIS.  
Substantive comments and corresponding responses will be in an appendix to the final EIS. The format will be similar to that shown below:
Comment: You should remove all dams on the Columbia River immediately.
Response: This proposal is outside the authority of the Bureau of Land Management. The Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation have that responsibility. (Include address and contact name in the response if possible.)
Comment: Table 4-5 shows incorrect totals for number of elephants in the Project Area.
Response: Table 4-5 has been corrected in response to this concern.
Comment: Salmon populations are healthy and thriving. Why can’t I continue bulldozing the creek bed?
Response: The Aquatics section of Chapter 3 indicate that salmon populations are declining due to ...... .
Helpful Hints for Responding to Substantive Comments
1. De-personalize the response -- “EIS Team” or “the commentor” not “we”, “our”, “you”.
2. Write for the final EIS, don’t defend the draft EIS. Use the present tense: “The final EIS includes a description ... ”, not “The final EIS will include a description ... ” or “The draft EIS included a description...”.
3. Respond to the comment, then stop.   Don’t add unnecessary explanation or rabbit trails not needed to respond to the comment.
4. If outside the scope of the EIS, then say so. Don’t go into too much detail on who is responsible or when and how it will be done. We can, however, include agency and contact person, if we know it.   Notable exception: post-ROD actions we are committed to, such as monitoring, should be identified.
5. Don’t say “See response above”. If the response is the same, the comments probably could be combined. 
6. Don’t imply that changes to standards or objectives will be made subsequent to the ROD; this suggests we aren’t committed to the changes.
7. Avoid agency jargon and acronyms; if they must be used, explain them in the text.
8. Don’t restate the comment in the response.
9. Stay with the editorial conventions established for the rest of the final EIS, even if the commentor mis-uses the word.
10. Don’t be defensive.
11. Don’t acknowledge wrongdoing, rather explain why what we are doing is right or identify where correction was made in the final EIS, using sections, headings, or subheadings, not page numbers.
12. Coordinate with other EIS Team members where overlap may occur. Agree on who will respond if single issue, or on common direction of both will respond. Make sure EIS author and EIS Team Leader is aware of what you are committing to.
13. State how issue was considered or how it will be dealt with, don’t say we’ll look at it or defer to adaptive management.
14. Use the following templates or standard responses when appropriate:
Response: The comment is beyond the scope of this broad-scale EIS, because ......... Include whose scope it is, if we know it.
Response: This proposal is outside the authority of the Bureau of Land Management because ........ include whose authority it is, if possible.
Response: The text of the EIS has been changed in response to this concern. See the ___ section/table/graph in Chapter ___.
Response: Alternative ___ was modified by adding/modifying ____ in response to this comment.
Response: This section/map/sidebar/definition/etc. is clarified in the final EIS.
Response: This term has been added to the glossary.
Response: The effects on the ____ resource are discussed in the final EIS. However, given the broad scope of this EIS, it is not possible to quantify ...... .
Response: Sufficient data do not exist at this time to quantify the relationship between ___ and ___.
Response: This topic is discussed in the ____ section/table, etc of the final EIS. Include brief synopsis of response.
Response: This comment was presented as a brief request and lacks sufficient detail on which to base an alternative to manage late-successional habitat throughout the project area (for example). Many of these ideas were addressed in other alternatives or were considered and eliminated from detailed study, as described in Chapter 2 of the EIS.
Examples of Responses to Substantive Comments
Example 1--From a timber sale EA (note references to specific pages of the EA)
Comment: You write that the EA includes no site-specific information on road locations or design and no site-specific information on impacts from roads. You state that BLM must have detailed, site-specific information in order for us to weigh the impacts of road construction against the ecological and economic benefits.
Response: The EA does provide information regarding roads and associated environmental impacts. Roads are extensively described in the EA. See pages 5, 8, 10, and 21-28. Probable road locations are shown on Maps 2-5. We characterize new road construction on page 5 of the EA: “Generally, new roads would be located on ridge tops or in areas having gentle to moderate side slopes.”    Road gradient would be relatively gentle as a result, usually less than 8%. As a standard practice, we avoid road construction on unsuitable soils. 
We describe the need for new stream crossings and how they would be constructed on page 22 of the EA. Each stream crossing would be designed to minimize the risk of failure. 
We will control the spread of noxious weeds by requiring road construction equipment to be cleaned prior to arrival on BLM-managed land (see EA, page 47). We also apply weed control measures as part of our district-wide weed strategy (see EA, page 14). We will manage erosion and ditch water by installation of cross drains (see above). We will block and water bar for the winter natural surfaced roads requiring operation for more than one season, as described on page 46 of the EA (design feature number 18).
We will close and decommission newly constructed roads after harvest operations (EA, page 46). We endeavor to decommission roads in ways that discourage use by OHVs. We will also close and decommission renovated roads not specifically identified in the Upper Lake Creek Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) as “open” (EA, page 46).
Example 2—Another timber sale EA comment response
Comment 5: The statement that Alternative A would generate 3 acres of opportunity for scotch broom establishment considers only the 25’ width of the 5000’ of road construction, not the likelihood that road construction would allow additional light penetration into the forest stand and thus effect more than 3 acres.
Response: Under all action alternatives, the residual stand would not allow sufficient sunlight to reach the forest floor to enable scotch broom to flourish in the stand. This is described for Alternative B (No New Roads) on page 12 of the EA. The action alternatives all have the same prescription, so we expect that there would be no substantive difference among alternatives regarding the spread of scotch broom into the interior of the residual stand.
Example 3—Comments on a Draft RMP/EIS in California
Comment: One fairly large gemstone operation (greater than 10 acres of surface disturbance) is already projected to be developed in bighorn critical habitat within the next ten years. Id. At 4-78. As to this, the DRMP/DEIS merely notes that "mineral entry could result in effects to this species," which is wholly inadequate to meet NEPA's requirement that such effects be analyzed.
Response: The approval of a mining plan for this type of operation is a subsequent implementation-level decision (rather than an RMP-level decision) and a site-specific NEPA process would be required before the mining plan may be approved. As the site is located within critical habitat, approval of the mining plan would be subject to Section 7 consultation with USFWS. This information has also been added to Section of the PRMP/FEIS.
Also note that this reference to a gemstone operation is a potential future development based on locatable mineral potential rather than based on a specific proposal. The text in Section 4.16.1 of the DRMP/DEIS has been revised to read as follows: “There is a potential, based on locatable mineral availability, for a gemstone mining operation greater than 10 acres to be implemented within the next 10 years. This locatable mineral potential is found within Peninsular Bighorn Sheep critical habitat in the Jacumba region of the Planning Area.”