Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: June 10, 2005
(202) 208-6416
Interior Department Managers to Work with States, Counties, Tribes
in Early Stages of Environmental Studies

WASHINGTON-The Interior Department today announced a notice of final change to operating procedures that would give local, state and tribal governments a greater say in the early stages of environmental studies. The procedures which will modify Interior's Departmental Manual Chapter (516 DM 2.5) were published in the Federal Register on June 6, 2005.

"This is an important change in the way we do business," Norton said. "Local communities, states and tribes should be at the table to provide their input when public land-management issues are addressed."

The new procedures make clear that Interior managers department-wide will be required to proactively work with federal, state, local and tribal governments through cooperating agency relationships when preparing environmental impact statements under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In early March 2005, the Bureau of Land Management completed its final rule on land-management decisions and established uniform eligibility criteria for federal and state agencies and tribal and local governments to apply for and become cooperating agencies.

Norton noted that the changes to the procedures support comments received early this year, requesting the rule change for all Interior bureaus. The changes also support an Executive Order on Facilitation of Cooperative Conservation, signed by President Bush on August 26, 2004. That order directs Interior and other federal agencies to implement laws that relate to the environment and natural resources in a manner that promotes cooperative conservation of natural resources through collaboration with an appropriate inclusion of local participation in federal decision-making.

"We look forward to having our managers working with local, state and tribal governments as cooperating agents," Norton said. "This will help us to provide broader public participation in resource-management decisions and will ultimately generate more effective on-the-ground solutions."

The changes to the procedures in the Department's Manual Chapter will require all DOI bureaus to invite qualified government entities to participate as cooperating agencies when the bureau is developing environmental impact statements. The Departmental Manual is the guidance document that outlines in detail how each agency of the department will operate.

The Interior Department has long recognized a distinct role for state, local and tribal government in land-management planning activities, which is consistent with Secretary Norton's 4C's, communication, consultation and cooperation - all in the service of conservation. The practice has never been formally recognized or required in DOI regulations, until now.

Under the new operating procedures, departmental bureaus will have the responsibility to reach out to their partners by encouraging them to collaborate in the preparation of environmental impact statements required under the National Environmental Policy Act and in the land-use planning process.

Procedures Published in the Federal Register


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