|2.5 Overview of the NEPA Process NEPA Issues|
|The Analysis Process | Purpose and Need for Action | Defining the Proposal | Connected, Cumulative, and Similar Actions | NEPA Issues | Internal Scoping | Alternatives | Affected Environment | Impacts | Determining the Appropriate NEPA Pathway | Using Contractors | The Administrative Record | Working with Other Agencies | Emergency Actions|
In NPS planning, an issue often describes concerns or obstacles to achieving a park goal. Planning issues might be lack of appropriate level of funding or visitors desire more solitude. In NEPA, the goal is minimizing effects of proposals on the human environment and issues are possible barriers to achieving that goal. Planning issues and those issues defined in the NEPA analysis should both be incorporated into the plan/NEPA document as appropriate.
To be more specific, in NEPA, an issue describes the relationship between actions (proposed, connected, cumulative, similar) and environmental (natural, cultural, and socioeconomic) resources. Issues are usually problems that either the no action alternative has caused, or that any of the alternatives might cause, but they may be questions, concerns, problems, or other relationships, including beneficial ones. As an example, Building a lodge on the north rim could create a man-made obstacle to an otherwise untouched view of a spectacular natural scene is an issue that details the relationship between the action (building the lodge) and an environmental resource likely to be affected (the view). Issues do not predict the degree or intensity of harm the action might cause, but simply alert the reader as to what the environmental problems might be if action is taken. The interdisciplinary approach must be used to decide relevant issues.
In determining relevant issues, the IDT should pay particular attention to the specific action element of the alternative causing harm and the specific element of the resource that may be affected. In the example above, the concern might be the two-story west wing of the lodge rather than the entire lodge. The resource affected might be the view of the Colorado River for hikers on a 200-meter stretch of the rim trail. This narrower description will help focus impact topics to just those resources affected, and mitigation measures or alternatives to just those actions causing problems for those resources.
If the team finds that certain issues that it or the public thought would be problematic will not be, it should discuss these in an EA or an EIS as issues considered but dismissed and drop them from the analysis.