NEPA, Climate Change, and Public Lands Decision-Making

Posted: Jul 14, 2011
Written by: 
Mark Squillace and Alexander Hood
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The chief federal agencies that manage our public lands, and many other federal agencies that make decisions affecting our natural resources, must generally comply with the National and Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) where a proposed federal action significantly affects the quality of the human environment. Even where federal actions do not significantly affect the environment, agencies must usually prepare an environmental assessment (EA).

Both EISs and EAs must consider alternatives to the proposed action and must analyze the environmental impacts of these alternatives, including the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts.

Among the most difficult contemporary problems facing agencies charged with NEPA compliance is determining how best to address climate change. The difficulty stems predominantly from the global scale and perceived uncertainty of climate change.

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