Preservation nonprofit urges robust, creative tribal consultation, public input, and scientific rigor
in NEPA implementation
Tucson, Ariz. (August 21, 2018)—On August 20, Archaeology Southwest joined more than 10,000 citizens and organizations in responding to the call from the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality for recommendations to the Council’s regulations (40 CRF 1500) implementing the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, our nation’s bedrock statute for assuring consideration of cultural and biophysical resources potentially affected by federal government agency actions. Archaeology Southwest’s comments regarding National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations included responses to some of the 20 questions posed in the docket, as well as specific recommendations for regulatory updates. The comments were prepared by William H. Doelle, President and CEO, and John R. Welch, Landscape & Site Preservation Program Director.
The formal comments in their entirety may be viewed here (opens as a PDF).
- “The NEPA statute and the current regulations affirm interests on the part of the American people and our Federal Government in cultural resources—historic places, traditions, and objects that are valued today—as essential and often irreplaceable elements of the human environment. Federal agency practice too often neglects legal mandates to consider sociocultural resources and impacts on par and in conjunction with biophysical aspects of the environment. The two are indivisible and require similar levels of consideration in the NEPA process.”
- “The interests and preferences of federally recognized tribal governments and American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian organizations …are not given the same consideration as state and local governments in the current regulations. The ANPR [advance notice of proposed rulemaking] is an opportunity to rectify this longstanding injustice.”
- “The ANPR should be retracted and CEQ leadership redirected to improving implementation of the current regulations…we urge CEQ to prioritize the provision of training, technical, and outreach assistance to federal officials on NEPA’s frontlines. More or different regulations cannot substitute for the practical guidance agency personnel require to optimize efficiency and effectiveness in NEPA implementation.”
In their comments, Welch and Doelle consistently emphasized the necessity of meaningful, robust, and creative tribal consultation, public input, and scientific rigor in NEPA implementation.
In preparing the comments, Welch noted, “We approached the CEQ questions as the best current opportunity to boost consideration for cultural resources and participation by tribes in the NEPA process. With utmost respect for the many individuals and organizations who answered ‘no,’ emphatically, to all 20 questions, we set out to teach the Council a few constructive lessons about how to improve NEPA’s effectiveness without sacrificing efficiencies.”
Doelle added, “No update to the CEQ regulations should thwart or undermine NEPA’s mandates for cautious and principled management of our public lands and resources in conjunction with substantive and sustained tribal consultation and public engagement.”