NEPA, Climate Change, and Public Lands Decisionmaking


Start Date

Primary Investigators
Mark Squillace
Council on Environmental Quality
Public land management agencies

One of the most difficult challenges facing public land managers today is how to address climate change in a meaningful way when making decisions affecting public lands. The challenge reflects the high levels of uncertainty surrounding climate change and the potential consequences of climate change for the large and complex landscapes and ecosystems that public land agencies manage. In February 2010, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued draft guidance to federal agencies describing how these agencies should address climate change in their decision documents. Recognizing the difficulty of the task, however, the CEQ’s draft guidance expressly disclaimed any intention of affording assistance to public land management agencies making complex land use decisions. The PIs sought to fill that gap by providing an analysis of three case studies that illustrate the complex challenges facing managers, and recommendations for CEQ and land management agencies. In their article, the researchers recommended that CEQ write regulations to hold agencies accountable for commitments to adaptive management, and that agencies make better use of programmatic analyses and tiering to better address climate change impacts.

Squillace, M. and Hood, A. (2012). “NEPA, Climate Change, and Public Lands Decision Making.” Environmental Law 42(2): 469-526.

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