Supporting Information for Categorical Exclusions
The Forest Service’s final rule at 36 CFR 220 includes several new and revised categorical exclusions. The categorical exclusions cover certain restoration, roads and trails management, and recreation and facility management activities, as well as certain special use authorizations that issue permits for resorts and outfitters and guides or for community organizations and civic groups. Information on how the final categorical exclusions were developed is highlighted below.
Supporting Statements and Appendices
- Supporting Statement (.pdf, 1.73 MB)
- Supporting Statement Appendices (.pdf, 158 MB)
- Infrastructure (Admin Sites, Recreation Sites and Trails, and Roads) NEPA Documents in Appendices
- Special Uses NEPA Documents in Appendices
- Restoration NEPA Documents in Appendices
Examples of CEs in the Final Rule
Categorical exclusions are a list of activities which agencies have determined from analysis and experience to not have significant environmental impacts and therefore do not require more detailed environmental analysis. Activities must be within the size and scope described in the categorical exclusion, and the agency must consider whether there are extraordinary circumstances which would preclude the use of the categorical exclusion. If the action does not fit within a category, or if extraordinary circumstances apply, the agency must conduct an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
The categorical exclusions covered in the final rule fall into three general categories: those that cover restoration activities, those that cover infrastructure activities, and those that cover special uses. The examples below are based on hundreds of analyzed environmental assessments.
Restoration projects projects must have a primary purpose of meeting restoration objectives or increasing resilience. Projects could include activities such as removing trees affected by insects or disease through commercial timber harvest and restoring streams to improve forest health and watershed conditions. These projects could also include reducing overgrown areas around communities to reduce wildfire risk and improve wildlife habitat through mechanical thinning and prescribed burning.
Infrastructure projects projects include activities like decommissioning poorly located and difficult-to-maintain roads or trails which cause resource damage. Another example is projects to relocate, build, and decommission campsites to improve visitor safety, convenience, and natural resource conditions.
Special uses and permitting include activities like issuing special use authorizations to build a water pipeline and storage tank for an area with poor water supply and quality. Other examples are authorizing development or improvements for a communication site or authorizing an outfitter to lead guided hikes on a popular hiking trail.
These examples are provided to demonstrate types of activities that could be covered under the new and expanded suite of categorical exclusions and do not take into account specific scenarios or extraordinary circumstances. Based on extensive analysis of hundreds of similar projects, the necessary environmental review to authorize these types of important activities could be completed with reduced process and in less time while maintaining important environmental safeguards.