Hello and Happy FRIDAY!!!
How is your comment letter to Theodore Roosevelt National Park coming along? We have 2 WEEKS from TODAY to get these letters completed and sent off to the Park. Remember – just under 200 wild horses are counting on you!
We cannot tell you what to comment, but we are making some suggestions based on emails, comments and messages we have received.
We have talked about this before:
” 43 C.F.R. § 46.110(c) states: “[t]he Responsible Official must, whenever practicable, use a consensus-based management approach to the NEPA process; see also Nat. Park Serv., National Park Service NEPA Handbook at 55 (2015). This means that NPS “should consider any consensus-based alternative(s) put forth by those participating persons, organizations or communities who may be interested in or affected by the proposed action.” Id. § 46.110(b).And, where the decision-maker finds “that the consensus-based alternative, if any, is not the preferred alternative, he or she must state the reasons for this determination in the environmental document.” Id. § 46.110(d).
This means that the more consensus we can build around a certain
alternative, the better because NPS has a regulatory duty to seriously
consider any such alternative (or, explain why it hasn’t).
Today, let’s talk about how comment about the Purpose & Need statement.
The Park’s Purpose and Need statement reads:
PURPOSE AND NEED
The purpose of the proposed action is to address livestock—horse and cattle herds—within the Park, under relevant laws, regulations, policies, and management priorities, including the conservation of native species and natural prairie ecosystem functions.
The proposed action is needed to:
• Address operational commitments to livestock
• Address potential impacts of livestock on the landscape and natural
resources, including native wildlife, native vegetation, and water resources
• Address potential impacts of livestock on cultural resources, including
archeological sites and cultural landscapes
• Provide resiliency for native ecosystems and species in the face of a
• Align livestock management with relevant laws, regulations, and policies
• Emphasize bison management in alignment with Secretarial Order 3410
This is an important part of your comment letter because THIS is what every comment goes back to. Does what you are stating in your comment support the Purpose & Need statement of the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA)?
Throughout the Draft EA, especially the last 2 pages. we see continual reference to this:
“This alternative also would not meet the project’s
purpose and need..”
So, the first thing everyone should say about the Park’s Purpose & Need statement is that it is too narrowly focused.
Here is part of our January comment letter about the Purpose and Need statement:
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).
“The scope of an alternatives analysis,” i.e., whether
a given alternative is “reasonable,” “depends on the underlying ‘purpose and
need’ specified by the agency for the proposed action.” League of Wilderness
Defenders-Blue Mtns. Biodiversity Project v. U.S. Forest Serv., 689 F.3d 1060,
1069 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing 40 C.F.R. § 1502.13; City of Carmel-By-The-Sea v.
U.S. Dep’t of Transp., 123 F.3d 1142, 1155 (9th Cir. 1997)). Although the Park
enjoys discretion in framing its purpose and need, it “may not define the
objectives of its action in terms so unreasonably narrow that only one
alternative from among the environmentally benign ones in the agency’s power
would accomplish the goals of the agency’s action,” thereby rendering the NEPA
process a “foreordained formality.” Id. (quoting Friends of Southeast’s Future
v. Morrison, 153 F.3d 1059, 1066 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Union Neighbors
United, Inc. v. Jewell, 831 F.3d 564, 575 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
Again, if you are not a lawyer, don’t try to be one now! lol
However, can you take those paragraphs and make them your
Here are some points to personalize into your own comment letter about the purpose and need statement:
· The Park’s Purpose and Need statement is too narrowly focused.
· The Park should consider an alternative that allows for a genetically viable herd of wild horses to remain within the Park.
· The Park should amend its Purpose & Need statement to include the historical and cultural significance of the wild horses.
· There have been several court cases challenging narrowly focused Purpose & Need statements that have been won in the past.
Now take those comments and make them your own. Again, PLEASE DO NOT copy and paste them into a letter. And remember, we are trying to build a consensus. The Purpose and Need statement is a big one!
Even though the Park has answered the statements above in their Draft EA (i.e. stating why they will not consider an alternative that allows for a genetically viable herd of horses to remain in the Park) you STILL need to make that part of your comment letter.
· You CAN comment more than once.
· Your letter can be as short or as long as you want it to be.
· Your comment to the Park becomes part of the public record!
· Your comment ONLY counts on the Park’s planning website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=167&projectID=105110&documentID=132035 or by mail: Superintendent, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, P.O. Box 7, Medora, ND 58645.
· Just under 200 wild horses are counting on YOU to be their voice!
We will only have a few more blog posts and you will be ready to send your letter! For today, work on making this part personal to your thoughts and feelings.
Please continue to send us your questions. We will continue to work to incorporate them into our blogs.
Thank you for your support and have a GREAT weekend!