Are you ready to pull up your sleeves and continue working on your comment letter? We have a NEW topic for you today.
Just a few reminders before we begin:
Our comments this time can be the same as they were last time. We DO NOT have to offer NEW information to make a SUBSTANTIVE comment.
IF you are NOT well versed in the topic, don’t state things you don’t understand. That being said, don’t be afraid to look up words or ask questions so that you CAN understand. Knowledge is power 😉
Comments should highlight (with evidence, studies, or personal anecdotes where possible) why impacts will be significant to resources such as:
Economic impacts to local governments, businesses, and residents
Wildlife and wildlife habitat
Historic and cultural resources
Ecologically critical areas
We also want to remind everyone that we DO have talking points along with documents you can read for yourself to help support your own comment letter to the Park on our website: https://chwha.org/save-the-trnp-wild-horses/
We are giving suggestions in these posts. Please do not copy our words verbatim and send them in as your own. Find a way to say the same thing in your own words. That helps give power to your words as an individual comment, so it will not be seen as a form letter.
Our next topic on what to add to your comment letter is challenging the narrow focus of the Purpose & Need Statement in your comment letter.
I want to start by sharing a small but significant change in the language the Park used in their scooping notice in December of 2022 and what we were given in this Draft EA. I am showing you this to hopefully show you the impact of even the smallest arguments and SUBSTANTIVE comments can make.
This is from our comment letter in January of this year:
“The Park promulgated its Foundation Document in 2014, and it “provides a focus for park planning activities and establishes a baseline from which planning documents are developed.” Foundation Document at 2. This includes the Park’s “Purpose Statement,” which “identifies the specific reason(s) for establishment of a particular park” and “aids park managers” in “protecting resources and values that are integral to park purpose and identity.” Id. at 2, 6. According the Foundation Document, the TRNP purpose statement “was drafted through a careful analysis of its enabling legislation and the legislative history that influenced its development.” The TRNP’s purpose statement, as written in the 2014 Foundation Document, provides that:
Theodore Roosevelt National Park memorializes Theodore Roosevelt and pays tribute to his enduring contribution to the conservation of our nation’s resources by preserving and protecting the scenery, wildlife, and wilderness qualities of the North Dakota Badlands—the landscape that inspired Roosevelt and still inspires visitors today.
In the Park’s recent Scoping Notice, the Park suddenly adds the word “native” to the TRNP purpose statement—without notifying the public about the change. The purpose statement that appears in the Scoping Notice reads:
Theodore Roosevelt National Park memorializes Theodore Roosevelt and pays tribute to his enduring contribution to the conservation of our nation’s resources by preserving and protecting the scenery, native wildlife, and wilderness qualities of the North Dakota Badlands—the landscape that inspired Roosevelt and still inspires visitors today.”
Our lawyers made the argument that the Park COULD NOT change their purpose statement that was delivered to the public in their Foundation Document without notifying the public of that change.
In the Draft EA that was released in September, the Park went back to the purpose statement as it is ACTUALLY written in the Foundation document:
“As described by the Park’s purpose statement, “Theodore Roosevelt National Park memorializes Theodore Roosevelt and pays tribute to his enduring contribution to the conservation of our nation’s resources by preserving and protecting the scenery, wildlife, and wilderness qualities of the North Dakota Badlands – the landscape that inspired Roosevelt and still inspires visitors today.”
We hope this helps you see the power of our comments. This is a small but significant change that was brought about by our comment letter. THIS is also why we have lawyers!
Moving on to the Park’s Purpose and Need statement and your SUBSTANTIVE comment on this topic:
NEPA requires that range of feasible alternatives is determined by the purpose and need for the action.
A few notes:
- Courts have cautioned agencies against defining the project purpose too narrowly.
- The purpose and need statement is a key factor in determining the range of alternatives considered.
- The term “all reasonable alternatives” implies that every reasonable alternative must be rigorously evaluated, no matter how many reasonable alternatives exist.
- United States Code (USC) Section 139 requires lead agencies to provide an opportunity for involvement for agencies and the public in defining the purpose and need and determining the range of alternatives.
Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates made the argument in the last comment period and will make the argument again that Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s Purpose and Need statement is too narrowly focused.
From our last comment letter:
“NEPA imposes on the Park a duty “study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources.” 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(E). The duty applies regardless of whether the “agency is preparing an [EIS] or an [EA], and requires the agency to give full and meaningful consideration to all reasonable alternatives.” N. Idaho Cmty. Action Network v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp., 545 F.3d 1147, 1153 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Native Ecosystems Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 428 F.3d 1233, 1245 (9th Cir. 2005) (emphasis added)); see also W. Watersheds Project v. Abbey, 719 F.3d 1035, 1050 (9th Cir. 2013) (same).”
That paragraph states the U.S.C. (United States Code) and also cites court cases that have weighed in on this topic.
The Park’s Purpose and Need Statement does not take the historical and cultural significance of these horses into consideration.
Our lawyers went on to state a way to rectify this narrowly focused Purpose & Need:
“To rectify that oversight, the Park should consider managing a genetically diverse wild horse herd representative of the phenotypes that would have been “part of the cultural landscape when Theodore Roosevelt lived in the area.” Foundation Document at 10. As the Park is well aware, such an alternative has been proposed previously; in 1984, the Park acknowledged the possibility “of maintaining a historic badlands horse herd, with the animals being direct 20 descendants of the horses which were found here when the park was founded.” See NPS, Natural Resources Management Plan and Environmental Assessment at 46-47 (1984); see also McLaughlin Report at 173 (same).”
Again, our entire comment letter from January of 2023 is available to read on our website. We also expect to have our comment letter completed in the next couple of weeks and will share it as soon as it has been approved and sent in.
The Purpose and Need statement is important to challenge because this is where the Park is telling us WHAT they are proposing and WHY. We have given you a few points above to help you challenge this in your own comment letter.
Remember, if you aren’t a lawyer, don’t talk like one 😉 BUT DO put those examples into your own words to personalize your own comment letter to make it unique and impactful.
We will be back tomorrow with more! Remember you are always welcome to email us with your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support and have a GREAT day!