Burgum applauds USDA proposal to modernize NEPA process, improve access to public lands

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Gov. Doug Burgum today applauded a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service to modernize compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“We appreciate USDA and the Forest Service’s willingness to remain flexible and work with North Dakotans on improving access and opportunities on our public lands,” Burgum said. “Although it was originally intended as a means of evaluating environmental impacts of federal actions, the NEPA process has been complicated over the last several decades, leading to delays for infrastructure development, recreational access and agricultural uses. This proposal will simplify and clarify the rules, lowering project costs and allowing all North Dakotans to use and enjoy their public lands.”

The proposal would expand the list of routine activities allowable as “categorical exclusions.” Documenting a project as a categorical exclusion leverages hundreds of existing assessments to demonstrate NEPA compliance, exempting them from needing a more time-consuming and costly environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The proposed list of activities to be included as categorical exclusions include road and trail maintenance, restoration projects and special use authorizations for recreational activities.

The proposed update is open for public comment until Aug. 12, 2019. More information can be found here on the Forest Service’s website.     

In North Dakota, public lands managed by the Forest Service consist of the Little Missouri National Grassland in western North Dakota and the Sheyenne National Grassland in the southeastern corner of the state.

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