National Environmental Policy Act - (NEPA) Terminology

National Environmental Policy Act - (NEPA) Terminology


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed by Congress to foster better decision making by officials. Its mandate is to insure information is available and considered before decisions and actions are implemented. The established process is quite straight forward.

  • Identify a Need
  • Make a Proposal
  • Inform the Public
  • Identify Concerns
  • Develop Alternatives
  • Prepare an EA or EIS
  • Public Review of Analysis
  • Make a Decision

Knowing the "NEPA language", is the first step in understanding this process. The following is a short list of common terms used to describe NEPA activities.

Categorical Exclusion(CE)

A number of categories of action have been determined from prior experience and analysis to result in no significant impact to the environment. If a proposed action falls into one of these categories, and if no extraordinary circumstances exist which might cause a significant impact in the specific case, these actions can be "categorically excluded" from documentation in an EA or EIS. Unlike an EA or EIS, there is no formal pre-decision comment period with a categorical exclusion (except for scoping). Examples of categorical exclusions are road work, some small timber sales, trail maintenance, etc.

Decision Notice (DN)

When an Environmental Assessment (EA) is conducted and it is concluded that no significant environmental impact will result from implementing the preferred alternative, a Decision Notice is issued. If a significant environmental impact will result, an EIS must be prepared, and a Record of Decision is issued. Decisions documented in a Decision Notice are subject to administrative appeal unless there has been no expression of public interest in the action.

Decision Memo (DM)

This type of decision is used when the environmental analysis has been "categorically excluded" (CE) from documentation in an EA or an EIS. Ordinarily, decisions documented in a Decision Memo are not subject to administrative appeal; the exception is the category of small timber sales (unless there has been no expression of public interest in the sale).

Environmental Assessment (EA)

This document discloses the environmental impacts to be expected from the proposed action and from specific alternatives to the proposed action. An EA is prepared when significant environmental impacts are not anticipated or when there is a question as to the extent of the impacts. Your comments are requested within 30 days of release of an EA. Your comments are considered prior to making the final decision and are responded to in an appendix to the EA.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

A formal public document prepared to analyze the impacts on the environment of a proposed project or action and released for comment and review. An EIS is prepared, instead of an EA, when significant environmental impacts are anticipated. Your comments are requested within 45 days after the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Your comments are considered prior to making the final decision and are responded to in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

Legal Notice

A notice of an appealable decision published in the Federal Register or in the legal notices section of a newspaper or general circulation as required by 36 CFR 217.2

Notice of Intent (NOI)

A notice printed in the Federal Register announcing that an "Environmental Impact Statement" will be prepared. (40 CFR 1508.22)

Record of Decision (ROD)

This type of decision is used when an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been produced. Decisions documented in a Record Of Decision are subject to administrative appeal.


Scope consists of the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be considered in an environmental document (either EA or EIS).


An integral part of environmental analysis. Scoping requires examining a proposed action and its possible effects; establishing the depth of environmental analysis needed; determining analysis procedures, data needed, and task assignments. The public is encouraged to participate and submit comments on proposed projects during the scoping period. Usually there is a date associated with the end or closure of the scoping period. It is that date which your response to the formal scoping statement is due; this is usually 30 days after release of the scoping statement. Especially valuable at this early stage are your concerns regarding potential environmental impacts of our proposed actions.


Once the issues surrounding a proposal are clear, alternatives are developed to achieve the project and respond to issues identified. All of the alternatives may not address all issues equally, but we strive to address all issues within the array of alternatives considered in detailed.

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