Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
CONTACT: Mark Pfeifle
For Immediate Release:March 8, 2004

New Policy Tools Advance Cooperative Conservation:

Interior Department Announces Modernized Procedures Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)


WASHINGTON - Today the Department of the Interior announced publication of revised procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in order to encourage the department's cooperative conservation goals.

"We have updated the procedures to reflect our commitment to public participation and cooperative problem-solving," said Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, who chaired the departmental working group assembling the procedures. The procedures are to be published today in the March 8 Federal Register. "We looked across bureaus and found the best practices that reflect our '4 C's' philosophy of conservation through communication, consultation, and cooperation. The manual revisions codify these best practices and communicate them throughout the department," Scarlett notes.

The revisions are the culmination of several years of work by the department, and are consistent with the recently released Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Task Force Report, Modernizing NEPA Implementation. The department held four listening sessions across the country in Anchorage, Portland, Denver and Washington, D.C. to elicit best practices from interested citizens and partners.

Enacted in 1969, NEPA describes a vision for balancing environmental, cultural, and economic goals. It provides the primary basis for public comment on agency decisions through consideration of the environmental effects of federal actions. The department notes that it made procedural changes to incorporate into the NEPA process the use of emerging environmental management techniques such as:

  • consensus-based management, where possible, to reduce conflict and enhance cooperative problem-solving;
  • adaptive management, as appropriate, to improve the use of science and monitoring;
  • improvements in the NEPA process made by drawing from existing analyses, where appropriate
  • integration of several simultaneous analyses rather than sequencing them; and building project-specific analysis from existing, broader programmatic analysis.

"These revisions reflect Interior's strong commitment to enhancing and supporting public participation through NEPA processes," Assistant Secretary Scarlett says. "We know they will bring positive results."*

The revisions provide the department's eight bureaus with the guidelines necessary to implement and carry out the objectives of NEPA. The Act aims to "encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment…to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."

The Secretary of the Interior's 4 C's philosophy exemplifies the vision of "productive harmony between man and his environment" set forth in the Act, Scarlett notes. The department's revisions emphasize:

  • increasing the opportunities for public involvement early in the NEPA process;
  • developing diverse partnerships;
  • consultation and collaboration with interested parties, including federal agencies, states, tribes, and nongovernmental organizations; and
  • community-focused NEPA training to demystify the NEPA process.

The procedures reflect public comments received in response to a notice of proposed revised procedures published in the Federal Register on September 4, 2003. The department's policies are posted in its Electronic Library at: More information on the department's NEPA program can be found on the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance's web site at:

Case Study: As an example of the benefits of consensus-based management, Scarlett cited the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area near Tucson in southeast Arizona. In the early 1990s, the BLM initiated a traditional planning process for creation of the Empire-Cienegas Resource Conservation Area. Poor planning, lack of public participation and the exclusion of private and state trust land parties from the process combined to cut short the federal initiative. Shortly afterwards, citizens, local government and conservation groups concerned about the health of Cienegas Creek Watershed joined with the BLM to win congressional approval for establishing the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (NCA). Unlike other NCAs, the creation of Las Cienegas was driven from the bottom up by the collaborative Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership. The partnership is a voluntary association of federal, state and local agencies and communities who share a common interest in the resources in the Sonoita Valley. The partnership consulted with the local BLM field office to formulate alternatives, and its proposal for the Las Cienegas NCA - which Congress relied upon in creation of the NCA - was adopted by BLM in FY 2003 as the preferred alternative in the NEPA process and subsequently selected.


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