NPS Director's Order 12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis and Decision Making
Table of Contents
Disclaimer Information

Chimney Rock National Historic Site, NE8.5 NPS Review of Non-NPS NEPA Documents — Review Guidelines for EISs

A. Draft EISs

Review comments on draft EISs or related documents should be confined to NPS areas of jurisdiction and expertise. They should be based on fact, published research, or professionally supported opinion. Your opinions as to the acceptability of project impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise should consider both the severity of the impacts and the practicability of proposed mitigating measures. You should urge adoption of measures that are compatible with both NPS interests and project purposes. See section 4.6.

1. Key sections for reviewers' attention — EISs are prepared in the format required by section 1502.10 of the CEQ regulations or an approved variation. This format allows a realistic, adequate assessment of project impacts and provides for inclusion of measures to minimize adverse impacts. Sections 1502.11 through 1502.19 of the CEQ regulations and section 4.5 of this handbook explain requirements for individual sections of an EIS. The EIS sections requiring particular NPS review attention are (a) purpose and need, (b) alternatives including the proposed action, (c) affected environment, and (d) environmental consequences.

2. Comment requirements for key sections-Reviewers of EISs should ensure that the above sections satisfactorily address:

(a) NPS concerns previously expressed during scoping or when participating as a cooperating agency.

(b) NPS positions outlined in providing planning aid and technical assistance, especially those related to alternatives preferred by NPS and to suggested mitigating and enhancement measures.

(c) evidence of coordination and consultation with NPS when proposals might affect NPS areas of jurisdiction or expertise, especially when NPS technical assistance or expertise might lead to enhancement or protection of park, recreation, historic, archeological, architectural, or significant natural area values within or associated with proposals, including world heritage sites and biosphere reserves.

(d) consultation with other appropriate groups, including the state historic preservation officer, the Land and Water Conservation Fund state liaison officer, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, local historical societies, state heritage program officials, and local authorities, including those that have received grant assistance from NPS.

(e) a “reasonably foreseeable” analysis of potentially significant adverse impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise, when impacts are uncertain (1502.22). Reasonably foreseeable includes impacts that have catastrophic consequences, even if their probability of occurrence is low, provided that the analysis of the impacts is supported by credible scientific evidence, is not based on pure conjecture, and is within the rule of reason.

(f) a clearly defined listing of impacts for each alternative, presented on a comparable basis to allow ready identification of the alternative promising the least damage to NPS interests.

(g) location of the proposal in relation to units of the National Park System and affiliated areas, or of designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers or National Trails under NPS management.

(h) measures that would mitigate, reduce, or eliminate adverse impacts or enhance beneficial impacts of the proposal on NPS areas of jurisdiction and expertise. Impacts may be direct, indirect, primary, and secondary. They include, but are not limited to, changes in air quality, including Class I area visibility; land uses impairing park, recreation, natural, and cultural resource values; water quality; noise levels; wildlife varieties, numbers, migration routes, and habitats within and near areas administered by NPS; park access and regional transportation systems; natural and cultural resource visual settings; regional socioeconomic conditions; and patterns of park visitor use.

(i) location and potential impacts of the proposal in relation to non-federal lands in which the Secretary of the Interior has a legal interest through NPS under terms of a federal deed, grant, or other conveyance. This includes areas that have received grants-in-aid from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (Section 6(f)), the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program, and the Historic Preservation Fund. It also includes park, recreation, and historic properties transferred under the Federal Surplus Property statutes or the Recreation Demonstration Projects Act.

(j) location of the proposal relative to historic properties listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, including National Historic Landmarks.

3. Reviewing tiered EISs — The CEQ regulations (1502.20) encourage tiering of EISs. A definition of tiering (producing a programmatic EIS that addresses broad policy issues, followed by other site-specific EISs, each of which does not need to reevaluate, but needs only to refer to the broad policy matters addressed in the programmatic EIS) appears in the CEQ regulations (1508.28). Reviewers should be alert to attempts to substitute tiering for adequate analysis of site-specific impacts. Site-specific analysis may reveal impacts of greater magnitude than those anticipated in programmatic EISs.

4. Reviews of state and local plans — The CEQ regulations (1506.2(d)) require that EISs discuss inconsistencies of proposed actions with approved state or local plans or laws. NPS responsibilities relate to a number of state and local plans, including statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plans, state historic preservation plans, and recreation recovery action plans. Proposals should address measures to reconcile situations where these plans and the proposed actions are at odds.

5. Secondary, indirect, and cumulative impacts — You should consider long-term secondary and indirect impacts of proposals as they affect NPS areas of jurisdiction and expertise. You also should consider cumulative effects and be alert to possible project segmentation that could distort or mask them.

6. NPS EIS comment coordination — If impacts of a proposal require coordination across NPS program areas (e.g., a proposed HUD regional plan), all affected units should comment.

7. Permit identification requirements — Proposals requiring NPS permits, easements, and so forth should be coordinated through the agency's NEPA process. The CEQ regulations (1505.25(b)) call for identification of federal permit, license, and other approval requirements during scoping, and again in review and comments on draft EISs.

When you identify a need for an NPS permit, you should inform the agency proposing the project. State why the permit is required and state a probable NPS position, based on information available at the time.

If you have serious concerns, or if the probable NPS position would be to deny the permit, the applicant should be urged to consult with the appropriate NPS office (provide a name and/or title, address, and telephone number) as early as possible. Mitigation measures or conditions that likely would be imposed before a permit would be issued should be stated in NPS comments on the draft EIS. These concerns and conditions should have been surfaced during the scoping process, and NPS should be a cooperating or joint lead agency, so that the document also covers NPS environmental analysis needs. NPS comments should address site-specific project impacts, measures necessary to minimize harm, or recommended project alternatives. The comments should explicitly indicate any tentative objection, or reservations (or lack of reservations), with reasons stated clearly. The reasons for objections should be based on explicit effects that NPS anticipates, their magnitude (use estimates if necessary), and their significance. Comments based on generalities, frustration with poor procedures, and similar “non-effect” remarks are not useful.

8. Types of NPS comments on draft EISsNPS must respond if it anticipates further involvement with the proposal (e.g., review of permit applications). NPS reviewers may also provide the following types of comments on draft EISs:

(a) No comment — You may send a simple “no comment” response when responding to EQD, if a draft EIS presents an adequate analysis of expected impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise (assuming that the proposed action or preferred alternative is acceptable to NPS). A no comment response also is appropriate when a proposal has no known impact on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise.

(b) Incomplete or inaccurate EIS — You may respond with a finding that the draft EIS is incomplete or inaccurate in some major and relevant way in its description of the predicted impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise. If the draft EIS is so inadequate as to preclude meaningful analysis, and the proposal appears to threaten serious adverse effects on NPS park, recreation, historic, archeological, architectural, or significant natural area interests, your comments should state explicitly how to make the document adequate, and in exceptional cases you may request the proposing agency to prepare and circulate a revised or supplemental draft EIS according to the CEQ regulations (1502.9(a)).

(c) CEQ referral — If there is a possibility that NPS may seek to refer a project to CEQ under provisions of 40 CFR 1504, this must be pointed out to the agency proposing the undertaking at the earliest possible time in the planning process, but no later than when NPS comments on the draft EIS.

(d) Additional alternatives — You may respond that the draft EIS fails to identify reasonable alternatives or alternative project components with lesser adverse impacts to areas of NPS jurisdiction or expertise, or that NPS favors an alternative other than the alternative preferred in the draft EIS.

(e) Mitigation inadequate — You may respond that you do not believe that adverse impacts will be mitigated adequately.

(f) Inadequate address of concerns raised during scopingYou may respond that concerns you expressed during the scoping process or as a cooperating agency were not addressed adequately or accurately in the draft EIS.

(g) Of course, positive or supportive comments where warranted should be included.

9. Consequences of declining to review — NPS reviewers should be extremely cautious about giving up future options by declining to review and comment on EISs or related documents involving proposals that may affect areas of NPS jurisdiction or expertise. Failure to review and comment may be interpreted by sponsoring agencies to mean that (a) NPS has no concerns in a proposed action; (b) the proposal will not significantly affect NPS areas of jurisdiction or expertise; or (c) NPS will issue any permits required for project construction.

B. Final EISs

During the draft EIS stage, you should identify significant omissions, errors, or unaddressed concerns. Ideally, these concerns will be addressed in the final EIS, making further comment unnecessary. Normally no comments are made on final EISs, unless NPS objects to the proposal itself or to one of its major features. Proposed comments on a final EIS are forwarded through EQD to the OEPC. Depending on the nature and extent of NPS concerns, the comments may request the sponsoring agency to prepare a supplement to its final EIS. Because the sponsoring agency may take action 30 days after release of its final EIS, comments on a final EIS must be handled expeditiously.

1. Responses to comments made by NPS on draft EISs

The CEQ regulations (1502.9(b)) require lead agencies to respond in final EISs to comments made on draft EISs, including discussion on responsible opposing views at appropriate points in the final EIS. NPS review of a final EIS should determine whether

(a) the final EIS adequately assesses all important issues raised by NPS on the draft EIS, including documentation on appropriate historical and archeological consultation requests and response letters.

(b) the selected alternative and any accompanying mitigation features are compatible with concerns, recommendations, and objections raised previously by NPS.

(c) new information that is contained in the final EIS, or that became available to NPS only after it released its draft EIS comments, has revealed a significant change in potential impacts of the proposal.

(d) the preferred alternative or the mitigation to be employed eliminates significant or adverse impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction or expertise.

2. Justification for comments on finals

Comments on final EISs may be justified by one or more of the following:

(a) NPS objects to the project because the preferred alternative is unacceptable to NPS, or it fails to incorporate NPS recommendations for mitigation or monitoring requirements after project completion.

(b) changes have been made in the proposed action, aside from adopting mitigating measures, that require additional assessment of environmental impacts on areas of NPS jurisdiction and expertise.

(c) changes in the final EIS are needed because the sponsoring agency has failed to understand the significance of NPS comments and concern on the draft EIS, and it continues to offer the project or proposal in a form that is unacceptable to NPS in whole or in part (see the “Responses to Comments” section above).

(d) Important new information that is consequential to the decision-making process becomes available, or erroneous or obsolete data presented in the final EIS need to be corrected or challenged because of NPS concerns about, or objections to, the project.

<<Return to previous section

Continue to next section>>

Return to top of page

Level A conformance icon, 
          W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

Back to EQD