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February 28, 2008

NEPA Outsourcing Dead, for Now

On February 20, Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell officially killed 'NEPA outsourcing' — that is, "put on hold" both NEPA related OMB-led "competitive sourcing" as well as Forest Service-led "NEPA Business Process Reengineering". In a letter to Forest Service top brass, Kimbell laid out these reasons:

… the recently-enacted Omnibus Appropriations Act directed that we not use any funds for further competitive sourcing activities. At a time when we are in the midst of ongoing Transformation efforts and the continuing transition to the Albuquerque Service Center, we want to avoid additional disruption and confusion that could come with overhauling our critical NEPA processes.
But Chief Kimbell left the door ajar for future tinkering, and suggested that result from the NEPA Feasibility Study [PDF] provide guidance for NEPA Streamlining, do be done "locally" for now, but perchance more broadly in the future:
Recognizing that NEPA processes are at the heart of our decision-making, it is important that we retain a strong linkage between Forest Service employees and those analytical procedures. It remains important, however, for us to seek long-term strategies to improve NEPA efficiency. I appreciate the comprehensive analysis and informative data in the Feasibility Study. It serves as a foundation for future work. Results from the Study—coupled with open communication—will help us identify and analyze best strategies for streamlining NEPA processes in the future.
Two quick points: First, NEPA is not an analytical procedure, and mistaking it for such perpetuates a Forest Service culture that continues to lose in court and frustrate both the courts and the public. Second, just what might one find in the NEPA Feasibility Study to provide useful guidance toward "best strategies" for streamlining NEPA compliance? Once again we ask, " What will it take to get the agency to think about the distinctions between procedures required by NEPA and the process of making decisions regarding management of the National Forests?" And we reiterate our earlier plea for reframing.

Posted by Dave on February 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM | Permalink


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