The Comment period has closed on the USFS request for comments on the proposed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule change to update the analysis and documentation of Categorical Exclusions. This is a small but important point within NEPA. NEPA requires agencies to disclose and analyze the potential impacts their management decisions will have on the natural environment. This has led to an overly cautious administrative process that subjects most management decisions to an Environmental Assessment or a more complex Environmental Impact Statement.
I recently received an email from a county supervisor outlining a situation where the county believed that the Forest Service was in violation of a county law when they closed close to 400 miles of routes in the forest that spanned two counties.
After reading the details submitted, I noted several false assumptions cited in the discussion.
First, let me address what NEPA is and is not. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to disclose and analyze the effects of their proposed action on the natural environment. NEPA is the law (passed by Congress) that requires this action. NEPA is an outline of a process with specific actions the agency is required to do. The resulting document from a NEPA process is not a "law". The result of a NEPA analysis is a Record of Decision stating that appropriate level of environmental review has been conducted and the proposed action can be implemented.