On May 3, 2012, the Department of the Interior published a notice in the FEDERAL REGISTER announcing a proposed new categorical exclusion to be added to the procedures of the Bureau of Indian Affairs compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 77 Fed. Reg. 26314 (copy attached). This proposed categorical exclusion was previously announced in a “Dear Tribal Leader” letter dated March 7, 2012. See our General Memorandum 12-045 (March 23, 2012), which discusses this proposal in detail. The proposed wording of the new categorical exclusion, which is identical to the wording in the Dear Tribal Leader letter, is as follows:
“Approvals of leases, easements, or funds for single-family homesites and associated improvements, including, but not limited to, homes, outbuild- ings, access roads, and utility lines, which encompass five acres or less of contiguous land, provided that such sites and associated improvements do not adversely affect any tribal cultural resources or historic properties and are in compliance with applicable Federal and tribal laws.”
As explained in the FEDERAL REGISTER notice, “The intent of this categorical exclusion is to improve the efficiency of a routine environmental review process for approval of new home construction on Indian land.” The practical effect of adopting this new categorical exclusion would be that compliance with NEPA would no longer require an environmental assessment (EA). In addition to reducing the time needed for BIA approval, this should avoid the costs associated with preparing an EA.
The deadline for filing comments is June 4, 2012. The “Dear Tribal Leader” letter had requested comments by May 14, but the BIA did not wait for that deadline to pass before publishing the notice. The letter had stated the goal of proceeding to final adoption of the proposal by June.
If you would like further information regarding the proposed categorical exclusion for single family homesites, please let us know.