The National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires Federal agencies to be accountable to the public for the environmental impacts of their actions. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has written regulations that establish the procedures NRCS and other Federal agencies must follow to meet NEPA requirements.
These regulations require Federal agencies to follow a systematic process when a Federal action is proposed. Federally listed threatened and endangered species (T&E species), as well as state rare, T&E species and species of concern, fall in one of several categories NRCS must evaluate for impacts.
To meet the requirements of NEPA and NRCS policy, NRCS planners will conduct an Environmental Evaluation to determine the potential effects of alternative solutions to resource problems for all planning activities and document the results of the evaluation on form NRCS-CPA-52, "Environmental Evaluation Worksheet" or State equivalent, including the appropriate finding.
In addition to NEPA, the NRCS has both the authority and the obligation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect and conserve plant and animal species listed or proposed for listing as endangered or threatened. Section 7(a)(1) of the ESA directs other Federal agencies to utilize their authorities to carry out programs for the conservation and recovery of federally listed threatened or endangered species. Section 7a(2) of the ESA requires NRCS, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Secretary of the Interior, to insure that its agency actions and activities do not jeopardize the continued existence of threatened and endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of the species' critical habitat.