NPS Director's Order 12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis and Decision Making
Table of Contents
Disclaimer Information
Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, VA5.1 Environmental Assessments — Introduction

CEQ originally created the Environmental Assessment (EA) primarily to be used when you do not have enough information to decide whether the proposal may have significant impacts. From its original purpose, however, an EA has evolved into a useful planning tool. An EA must lead to a FONSI or an NOI and an EIS. Therefore, if you find through the use of an EA that a proposal does have the potential for significant impact, you must prepare an EIS (unless section 5.4(f)(3) applies). On the other hand, if you find that the proposal or any of the alternatives analyzed in the EA would not significantly affect the environment, prepare a FONSI.

The stated purposes of an EA (CEQ 1508.9) are to:

(a) briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a FONSI (described above).
(b) aid an agency's compliance with NEPA when no EIS is necessary.
(c) facilitate preparation of an EIS if one is necessary.

However, an EA can be prepared at any time to assist in planning and decision-making (1501.3(b)).

Curecanti National Recreation Area, CODetermining whether an EIS is needed is only one of the purposes of an EA. In fact, today it is clear that the most common rationale for preparing an EA is to aid in an agency's compliance with NEPA, particularly section 102(2)(E), when an EIS may not be necessary. Section 102(2)(E) requires an agency to “study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources.”

Further Links:

Example of an EA (Get the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader 5.0 to read the document.)

<<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