WHAT WE ARE DOING / WHAT WE CAN DO
The Department will involve minority and low-income communities as we make environmental decisions and assure public access to our environmental information.
What We Are Doing:
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (BLM):
The BLM has established a National Native American Program Office, located in New Mexico, to coordinate policy and guidance for all BLM programs. BLM holds many public meetings and "town meetings" on special national issues such as range reform, mining reform, the forestry plan, minerals management, resource planning, disposal of sewage sludge and other specific local issues. Since August 1993, BLM has had a formal policy of identifying minority, tribal or low income populations that may be affected by the pending decision during the preliminary scoping under NEPA, and to assess the impacts on them, and to involve them in our public participation processes. BLM also complies with the requirements under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) that mandate public input from American Indian Tribes when the Bureau's projects may affect Indian religious practices or sacred areas.
All State Offices include the Tribal governments on mailing lists for news releases, scoping letters and notices, and various other correspondence. The many BLM Districts with lands adjacent to Indian reservations, often provide extensive technical and regulatory support to the neighboring tribes. State Offices and District Offices maintain full recordkeeping practices on findings at public land hazardous substances release sites. State health agencies' and the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry's data related to such sites is also made available to the public through the BLM or through the appropriate agency. The BLM policy is to provide multi-language signs at risk sites that alert the public, in English, Spanish, and Navajo, to the fact that hazardous materials are present at the site. BLM is considering translation of brochures and other documentation on issues that potentially impact minority and low income populations environmentally.
OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING (OSM):
The OSM continues to incorporate the views and ideas of all of its constituent groups in all of its decision-making activities. The meaningful public participation of low-income, minority community members and members of the Native American community has been and continues to be high priority in the Agency's dealings with the States, Tribes, citizens and the industry.
In an effort to ensure that all members of affected communities have the opportunity to convey their ideas and concerns to the agency on decisions that affect their community, we have established proactive public participation procedures: ensure the attendance of interpreters at all public hearings for non-English speaking participants; the advertisement of public hearings and meetings in local mediums other than the local newspaper; hold public meetings and hearings in locations and facilities in the affected communities whenever possible.
Further, we ensure that members of the affected communities have access the necessary information that affords them the opportunity to provide meaningful comments. Providing this information also gives the members of the affected community the background they need to determine what effects, if any, a proposed action will have on their community.
Additionally, OSM has a policy of public outreach that informs citizens of proposals that may have an impact on their communities. Further, OSM has established an Advisory Committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to advise it on specific regulatory issues. This committee will be comprised of members from the States, Tribes, industry, and residents' of the coalfields. This process will afford further opportunities for members of affected communities to have meaningful participation in the decisions that are made that affect their communities.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE)
The public is invited to participate in BOEMRE sponsored meetings to submit written or oral suggestions on environmental issues and alternatives that should be analyzed on draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents.
Determine the scope of environmental impact analyses that are prepared for decisions to lease or conduct mineral development operations on the OCS.
Ensure that NMS environmental analyses are of a high quality.
The BOEMRE environmental documents are sent to local public repositories such as libraries and educational institutions. Notices of the availability of environmental documents and of related public hearings and meetings are given to the print and electronic media servicing potentially affected populations. The BOEMRE has also established regional outreach programs to educate the public about the OCS program in general via exhibits at public events and conferences, presentations at schools and BOEMRE-sponsored community meetings, and interviews with the news media. The BOEMRE produces some public information documents in Spanish, Japanese, and Alaska Native languages to ensure that non-English speaking populations, potentially affected by OCS activities, are made aware of those activities. Examples of translated documents include press releases, "fact sheets," and layperson's summaries of technical studies and reports.
The BOEMRE Environmental Studies Program (ESP) has established relationships with numerous academic institutions for the purpose of conducting OCS-related oceanographic and biological research such as the University of Alaska, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, the University of New Orleans, the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and Jackson State University.
BUREAU OF RECLAMATION (BOR):
Because of the special relationships between the United States and Indian tribes, Reclamation has Native American Affairs Offices in Washington, D.C., the Regions, and many area offices. These offices are primarily concerned with making Reclamation services more readily available to tribes and make sure that Indian concerns are considered by Reclamation. Reclamation has implemented procedures to insure that its projects do not adversely impact Indian trust assets.
Reclamation staff produce and review all documents in order to make them concise, understandable, and readily accessible. Notices of public meetings are published in news media and through electronic media (radio and television) as well as the Federal Register. NEPA documents requiring public review are made available for display in public libraries and distributed to all upon request.
Some modeling efforts and testing have been referred to universities and colleges, but BOR tends to use its own personnel in research, communication, or leadership efforts. To further environmental justice, the BOR has partnered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Hispanic-serving institutions to help provide education.
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (FWS):
The FWS provides input to the public on its activities through a variety of communications media, including CompuServe, Internet, news releases, press advisories, fact sheets, an agency newsletter, public service announcements, Federal Register notices, public meetings, workshops, and targeted mailings. In addition, brochures, posters, exhibits, other general publications and videos (close-captioned for the hearing impaired) are developed to provide information to the public on major FWS programs and activities. The Internet has the potential ability to reach millions of people on a global scale.
The FWS is working on various projects with Indian tribes along the United States-Mexico border that may benefit fish and wildlife resources, as well as the Indian tribes. Many of these projects further the goals of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); abatement projects will result in positive effects on tribes and low-income communities and populations on both sides of the border. The FWS is working with other federal agencies in the implementation of these activities (Reference: President's NAFTA Report on Environmental Issues, November 1993).
The FWS is continually updating guidance for subsistence taking of fish and wildlife on federal lands in Alaska. Concerns regarding impacts on Alaska Natives were addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An interagency team representing the FWS and four other federal agencies from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, conducted 58 scoping meetings and 41 public meetings. A major effort was exerted to communicate with all Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native regional corporations, and major Alaska Native groups in Alaska for consultation.
The FWS is cooperating with Canada and with various American Indian tribes on a proposed Migratory Bird Treaty protocol for subsistence take by Alaska rural residents. Additionally, there is a cooperative management effort with Alaska Natives and Russian indigenous peoples for the polar bear.
Successful FWS programs that target inner city and other indigent groups are as follows:
The Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program reaches young people from all parts of society.
Earth Stewards Conservation Education Program reaches young people from all parts of society.
Adopt-A-Wetland Program reaches young people from all parts of society.
"A Home for Pearl" curriculum guide is particularly targeted to urban youth.
Partners for Cultural Diversity Program focuses on encouraging minorities to pursue natural resource careers.
The FWS requires that recipients seek input from minority and disadvantaged communities. The FWS also requires that minority and disadvantaged individuals be included on Recipient Advisory Councils. Assurance Agreements are made among recipients of FWS funds and various State field stations and contractors to ensure adherence to civil rights requirements.
In the Alaska Region, the FWS conducts numerous hearings and informal meetings associated with decisions or planning processes that affect "bush" communities. Newsletters, mail back comment sheets, and public service announcements on local radio stations are used. FWS project leaders, planners, and biologists are expected to make contact with Alaska Native tribes, organizations/groups and other interest groups as early as possible within the process to ensure that all affected parties understand FWS proposals.
In that regard, the FWS employs Alaska Native interpreters who assist in gathering data within their communities. A wide variety of fish and wildlife and environmental information and education projects are done in conjunction with Alaska Native corporations and local schools in the bush communities. For example, posters, exhibits, public service announcements, and even calendars have been produced in languages other than English to reach non-English speaking Native publics. Many FWS notices, particularly for rulemaking, have "boiler plate" language that has been extensively reviewed to ensure it is concise and understandable.
Some refuge and Ecological Services field offices provide public documents and notices in Spanish; and several field offices have Spanish/English speaking personnel to provide oral communications in and out of the field offices and at public and informal meetings.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (NPS):
The NPS has an extensive public involvement and participation programs incorporated into its planning and decisionmaking process. The NPS makes diligent efforts to involve potentially affected publics in scoping, development of alternatives, analysis of impacts, and public review of NPS proposed activities. These efforts have included the development of written materials for non-English speaking populations, as well as the use of translators for non-literate, non-English speaking populations.
For example, in developing the General Management Plan for Chaco Culture National Historic Park as well as for the El Malpais National Monument, NPS staff had extensive involvement with Native American groups, using interpreters to facilitate interchange between NPS personnel and local Native American residents. In the Washington area, NPS has taken steps to keep Latin-American communities involved in the NPS environmental decision making process. In particular, use of the area surrounding the tennis stadium at Rock Creek Park has created conflicts between user groups. In order to fully involve local Latin-American soccer users, Spanish translations were made of documents to explain the environmental planning process.
The NPS planning process will become more sensitive to environmental justice concerns after the revision of NPS-12, the NPS guidelines for implementation of the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. NPS plans to include guidance on environmental justice issues within these revisions.
NATIONAL BIOLOGICAL SURVEY (NBS):
Scientists' notes, field books, and other data are provided to the public upon request. (Note some data is restricted but receives prompt review for appropriateness of release.) Technical experts provide advice and guidance to other agencies to provide input for their public documents. All offices post any health hazard bulletins on public electronic bulletin boards. NBS has about 50 Cooperative Research Units at colleges across the country. These are the combined efforts of federal, state and university activities. The focus of these units is on biological research.
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS (BIA):
Tribal governments and their members are always involved in Bureau actions involving public participation and access to information. The majority of their actions are initiated by tribes or individual Indian landowners. The BIA actions, such as regulations, handbooks and guidance documents, are subject to tribal scrutiny prior to approval. Updated manuals, which are widely distributed, help ensure that documents are concise and understandable. Tribal concerns are discussed and mentioned throughout the NEPA documents, especially in the "Alternatives" and "Socio-Economic" sections. The Bureau usually has had interpreters present at public hearings concerning its NEPA documents. Public documents, notices and hearings are available and open to all tribes as appropriate.
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS):
The USGS, a scientific earth-science information and research agency, generates baseline data used by state, federal, and tribal agencies which have responsibilities for ensuring the basic justice of their environmental programs on minorities, low income, or tribal communities, For example, the USGS collects, analyzes, and compiles information on water quality, sediment quality, and in some instances contaminants in fish; these data are collected objectively and are made available to governmental agencies and the public through new releases, meetings, symposia, on-line computer facilities, and public library systems. When during the course of sampling, environmental standards are exceeded, the USGS notifies the appropriate regulatory or enforcement agency of its findings. The USGS endeavors to provide credible, reliable data and information without bias toward any group or viewpoint.
Goal 1. -- What We Can Do
Strategies on what we can do:
"Guiding Principles of Public Participation. Public participation is needed in all aspects of environmental decision making. Communities and Agencies should be seen as equal partners in dialogue on environmental justice issues. In order to build successful partnerships, interactions must: recognize community knowledge; encourage active community participation; institutionalize public participation; and utilize cross-cultural formats and exchanges. Maintaining honesty and integrity in the process by articulating goals, expectations, and limitations is necessary. "--NEJAC
Progress Measurement - DOI, Office of Environmental Justice will distribute key IWG and NEJAC final reports and recommendations by March 1, 1995.
B. The Department will work to improve its procedures and guidance, under the NEPA. Interior will expand opportunities for community input in the NEPA public involvement process by actively seeking the involvement of minority, low-income communities and Indian tribal governments. Under NEPA, Interior and its Bureaus will inform the public about periods of comment and public forums and meetings, where all stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on major Interior policies, activities, and actions.
Progress Measurement - Distribute the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Reports developed on improvements in public involvement and social impacts by March 1, 1995.
Progress Measurement - Each Bureau will draft communication on how they intend to pursue outreach for public participation by April 1, 1995.
C. The Department will review current reports and recommendations and look to address American Indian and Alaska Native issues. The Department will address in the implementation plan the issue of providing an opportunity for tribal grassroots organizations and individuals to express their environmental concerns related to actions taken by Interior.
Progress Measurement - The BIA will formally appoint a liaison to assist the other Departmental and Bureau Coordinators by February 1, 1995.
Progress Measurement - The Bureau of Indian Affairs will present by September 1995, after Tribal consultation, a strategic implementation plan integrating and addressing the factual data, concerns, and recommendations presented by 1) the American Indian Listening Conference concerns on Environmental Justice from April 1994; 2) the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group Native American Task Force Discussion Paper on Environmental Justice for American Indians and Alaska Natives December 1994; and 3) the May 1994 National Tribal Environmental Council report on the status of tribes and the environment.