The National Park Service is required by the NPS Organic Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to plan and make informed decisions that help preserve park resources and values. The NPS carries out this responsibility by preparing studies and involving the public before making decisions that will affect the environment.
The Environmental Planning and Compliance Branch serves as the NPS's focal point for all matters related to NEPA planning and compliance. The branch manages projects and provides guidance, technical assistance, training, and advice on NEPA to NPS staff to protect park resources and values for the enjoyment of future generations.
The National Environmental Policy Act
Passed by Congress in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established a national policy of encouraging productive and enjoyable harmony between human beings and the environment for present and future generations. To further this policy, NEPA requires federal agencies like the NPS to evaluate the environmental impacts of its actions and to involve the public in the decision-making process. Within the NPS, the NEPA process is an essential tool for ensuring informed decisions that conserve park resources and values.
National Park Service Director’s Order 12
Director's Order 12 (DO-12) and its accompanying handbook set forth the policies and procedures by which the NPS meets its NEPA requirements. DO-12 describes the NEPA-related roles and responsibilities of NPS staff and highlights the key instructions, requirements, and policies related to NEPA planning and compliance. The Handbook, along with supplemental guidance that will be issued on an as-needed basis to address specific NEPA-related topics, serves as the "how-to manual" for NPS NEPA planning and compliance.
The Handbook has been revised to incorporate new requirements and practices that emphasize the need for concise, focused and timely NEPA reviews and documentation. These revisions were made in response to new requirements and guidance issued since the previous Handbook was approved in 2001, the need to streamline NPS practices in response to current efforts to modernize Federal agency implementation of NEPA, and the need to improve impact analyses in response to lessons learned over the past 14 years.