The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, is a landmark environmental protection legislation establishing as a goal for federal decision-making a balance between use and preservation of natural and cultural resources. NEPA requires all federal agencies to: (1) prepare in-depth studies of the impacts and alternatives to proposed "major federal actions"; (2) use the information contained in such studies in deciding whether to proceed with the actions; and (3) diligently attempt to involve the interested and affected public before any decision affecting the environment is made. Section 102(2)(E) of NEPA requires an agency to "study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources." An Environmental Assessment (EA) is the tool most often used for complying with NEPA and determining when an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be necessary. In this instance, the National Park Service has decided to prepare an EA to evaluate potential impacts to park resources and people by the proposed project. An EA "briefly provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an EIS or a [F]inding of [N]o [S]ignificant [I]mpact (FONSI). 40 C.F.R. §1506.9(a)(1)"

An EA must lead to either (1) a FONSI or (2) a Notice of Intent and an EIS. Therefore, if we find, by using an EA, that the preferred alternative will have significant effect on the human environment then an EIS will be prepared. If we find that alternatives analyzed in the EA would not significantly affect the human environment, a FONSI will be prepared.

* indicates the current step in the planning process
Step 1. Public Scoping
Step 2. Development of the environmental assessment
Step 3. Release of environmental assessment for public review
Step 4. Determination of Finding of No Significant Impact or project reevaluation through a reissue of a revised Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement
Step 5. Compliance Completion *