The Environmental program ensures BIA’s compliance with environmental laws and regulations relative to Native Allotments, Trust properties, and BIA-funded projects.

The most common services provided are NEPA-related and consist of: (a) responding to requests for Categorical Exclusions [cat-exs]; and (b) performing Environmental Assessments for Transportation projects and Realty transactions to determine whether a proposed agency action would require an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] or a Finding of No Significant Impact [FONSI]. Environmental also conducts Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments when necessary.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance Documents

Categorical Exclusions (cat-exs)

If the proposed action fits within the list of actions exempt from further NEPA documentation published by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and BIA, then it can be categorically excluded. For this to happen, it must be determined that no “extraordinary circumstances” apply to the proposed action. This is done through a Categorical Exclusion Exception Review (CEER) Checklist, prepared by Regional or Agency NEPA Specialists.

Environmental Assessment (EA)

If the proposed action does not qualify for a Categorical Exclusion, does not have a previously prepared NEPA document, or the significance of the action affect is unknown, then an Environmental Assessment is necessary. This document provides evidence and analysis for the determination of the significance of effects for the proposed action. This will also determine if a Finding of No Significance (FONSI) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is necessary for the action to proceed.

Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)

If the Environmental Assessment finds that the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the environment, then a FONSI is prepared and made available to the public before the proposed action moves forward.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

If the Environmental Assessment finds that the proposed action will have a significant effect on the environment, then an EIS is needed. This process begins with a Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register and local public media and requires public scoping. Drafts of EISs are prepared and also made available for the public to review and comment upon, with the Final EISs inclusion of responses to the comments that were received.

Record of Decision (ROD)

Once the EIS is done, then the BIA’s decision is documented in a ROD which explains the decision, its factors, and identifies the environmentally preferred alternative along with other alternatives for the proposed action. This is made available to the public before the decision is carried out.

More information about these documents and their processes can be found in the BIA NEPA Handbook

Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process: this process looks at recognized environmental conditions of a specific property.

  1. Records Review: obtain and review records and documents for the property that identify recognized environmental conditions.
  2. Site Reconnaissance: obtain information that connects recognized environmental conditions to the property.
  3. Interviews: obtain information from past and present owners and occupants along with state and/or local government officials to connect recognized environmental conditions to the property.
  4. Report: the report must identify the environmental professional and others whom conducted steps 2 and 3 listed above, support findings and ensuing opinion with documentation, and use enough detail to where another party could reconstruct the work that was performed.

Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Process: this process has to do with suspected hazardous substances in connection with specific areas of land.

  1. Formulate the question: the hypothesis being tested must meet objectives for the assessment set by the user and the Phase II Assessor.
  2. Identify the areas: all areas that will be investigated as part of the assessment must be identified.
  3. Develop a conceptual model: determine a model for how the substance(s) of interest (also known as target analytes) entered and interact with the identified areas for the assessment.
  4. Plan sampling and chemical testing: plan the way in which data about target analytes will be gathered for the assessment.
  5. Carry out sampling and chemical testing: follow the plan that was developed to collect samples and conduct chemical testing.
  6. Validate conceptual model: evaluate results from chemical testing and other investigations to determine whether or not the conceptual model is consistent with findings and that the information is sufficient to support conclusions regarding the target analytes.
  7. Develop conclusions: based on interpretations of the results, develop a conclusion using the findings and conceptual model that also relates to the question posed in the first step.
  8. Report: a written report of the objective(s), conceptual model, investigation(s), findings, and conclusion must be produced.

If you have any questions, please contact the Regional Environmental Scientist, Harrilene Yazzie at 907-271-4004.

The Environmental program operates under the following:

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA); Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); Clean Water Act (CWA); Endangered Species Act (ESA); Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); Clean Air Act (CAA); Coastal Zone Management Act; etc., 25 CFR, 30 CFR, 36 CFR, 40 CFR, and 43 CFR