National Environmental Policy Act

National Environmental Policy Act

Updates will allow for more efficient ranching management.

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Public Lands Council Press Release - The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council  on July 15 celebrated landmark improvements to environmental policy through finalization of the Trump Administration’s rulemaking on the National Environmental Policy Act. The NEPA updates make the process more efficient and timely, while also laying the groundwork for healthy and resilient open spaces and pastureland.

“The modernized NEPA rule brings common sense back to an important rule that was established to protect our land and water resources,” said NCBA President Marty Smith. “President Trump and his team at the Council on Environmental Quality embraced a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure this country has the strongest possible environmental policy for years to come. They deserve an abundance of thanks. American ranchers that care for hundreds of millions of acres of private and public lands across the United States know the importance of implementing timely improvements based on the best knowledge at hand. These changes ensure NEPA does not delay good management practices.”

“The process updates to NEPA are celebrated across the West,” said PLC President Bob Skinner. “Today’s rule recognizes the severe limitations of a policy that had not been updated in more than 40 years. Over the last four decades, ranchers learned and adapted to new needs of wildlife and other rangeland users, but outdated NEPA policy prevented us from responding to many critical situations. The changes finalized today bring NEPA up to date, focus the attention on the real issues at hand, and ensure the government is avoiding speculative and duplicative environmental reviews. Thank you to the Trump Administration for engaging and listening to stakeholders on the ground.”

The updated NEPA rule does not change the substantive NEPA law, but rather, improves the management, interpretation, and engagement of NEPA processes. This includes establishing presumptive time limits of two years for environmental impact statements (EISs) and one year for environmental assessments (EAs), codifying relevant case law and determining appropriate levels of environmental review, expanding outreach and utilized technologies, and ensuring meaningful and effective environmental reviews.

NEPA requires federal agencies to assess environmental effects of proposed major Federal actions prior to making decisions.

Ranchers who hold federal grazing permits are subject to NEPA reviews for many reasons, including renewal of a term grazing permit, construction of range improvements, or to become eligible for participation in many USDA conservation programs.

NEPA has not undergone substantive regulatory revision since 1986.

NEPA has been used as a way to bog down routine processes and delay critical projects. In fact, according to a 2018 report from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the average time it took Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (from the issuance of a Notice of Intent to the Record of Decision) was 4.5 years.