WASHINGTON, DC—The goal of the Environmental Analysis and Decision-Making effort is to increase the diversity, health, resilience and productivity of our national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service aims to meet the goal by reducing the time and cost of project and planning analysis and decision-making. The Rocky Mountain Region decided that to help them meet the goal of the EADM effort, they needed a targeted approach. Thinking strategically, the region developed a template for drafting biological evaluations to use in conjunction with National Environmental Policy Act categorical exclusions. The template improves the efficiency of the categorical exclusion process by cost effectively and quickly eliminating the region’s backlog in special use permits and mitigating the risks associated with fire and disease.
Since the special uses program is the primary user of categorical exclusions, the region also developed a decision tree diagram specific to special use permit renewals to help the staff use the new biological evaluation template. To further streamline the process, a changed condition template is also available to document changes to existing biological evaluations for special use permit renewals, and other projects, when uncertainty exists regarding whether previous analyses adequately addressed current conditions.
All employees have access to the biological evaluation template, decision tree and changed conditions template through Pinyon.
The template is required for all biological evaluations prepared for projects that are categorically excluded from NEPA environmental assessment/environmental impact statement requirements. The regional office is fully invested in this process and will present a webinar and provide ongoing training and support for those working with the template.