The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) established as a goal for federal decision-making, achieving a balance between use and preservation of natural and cultural resources. NEPA requires all federal agencies to 1) identify and evaluate potential impacts of their actions on the human environment, which includes natural and cultural resources as well as socioeconomic considerations; 2) use the information gained through the evaluation in deciding what action to take and disclose any environmental consequences that may result from that action; and 3) diligently attempt to involve the interested and affected public before any decision affecting the environment is made.

To comply with NEPA, the National Park Service prepared an Environmental Assessment to analyze potential alternatives for managing the feral horse population inhabiting the Maryland portion of Assateague Island. The following summarizes the steps in the planning process.

* indicates the current step in the planning process
Step 1. Define purpose and need; develop preliminary alternatives
Step 2. Conduct public and agency scoping
Step 3. Refine alternatives
Step 4. Identify evnironmental impacts and select preferred alternative
Step 5. Prepare environmental assessment
Step 6. Public review of environmental assessment
Step 7. Analysis of public comments
Step 8. Prepare final decision document
Step 9. Release final decision document to public *

On February 19, 2009, the Northeast Regional Director of the National Park Service approved a Finding of No Significnat Impact (FONSI) for the project, clearing the way for implementation of the Selected Alternative.

The Selected Alternative (modified Alt D) will reduce the NPS-owned horse population inhabiting Assateague Island from its current size of approximately 130 to a more sustainable population of 80-100. The target size reflects a compromise between the competing objectives of reducing the adverse effects of the horses while protecting the long-term health and viability of the population. The Selected Alternative also includes long-term monitoring, public outreach and education, and mitigation to protect the horse population from potential inbreeding effects. The reduction will be accomplished over a 5-8 year period through the intensive use of contraceptives, acting in concert with natural mortality.

The FONSI contains an errata sheet describing changes made to the Environment Assessment. Because the changes were minimal, the Environmental Assessment will not be reprinted.