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Glossary of Terms and Acronyms Used In NEPA and Land Use/Access
Compiled by John Stewartsearch from here:

Here is a good NEPA reference: The Citizens Guide to NEPA (in .pdf)

NEPA Appeals Process and Explanation here.

Note: The below glossary and list of acronyms was compiled from various sources and is a list of the more common terms used in conjunction with land management policy.

- A -

Activity Plan: see “Implementation Plan.”

Allotment: An area of land designated and managed for the grazing of livestock by one or more livestock operators.  It generally consists of public lands, but may include parcels of private and other Federal or State owned lands.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Any process used to prevent, manage, or resolve conflicts using procedures other than traditional courtroom litigation or formal agency adjudication.

Amendment: The process for considering or making changes in the terms, conditions, and decisions of approved RMPs using the prescribed provisions for resource management planning appropriate to the proposed action or circumstances.  Usually only one or two issues are considered that involve only a portion of the planning area.

Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC): Special Area designation established through the Bureau’s land use planning process (43 CFR 1610.7-2) where special management attention is needed to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historical, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources, or other natural systems or processes, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards.  The level of allowable use within an ACEC is established through the collaborative planning process.  Designation of an ACEC allows for resource use limitations in order to protect identified resources or values.

Assessment: The act of evaluating and interpreting data and information for a defined purpose.

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- B -

Best Management Practices (BMP): A suite of techniques that guide, or may be applied to, management actions to aid in achieving desired outcomes.  Best management practices are often developed in conjunction with land use plans, but they are not considered a land use plan decision unless the land use plan specifies that they are mandatory.  They may be updated or modified without a plan amendment if they are not mandatory.

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- C -

Categorical Exclusion (CX or CE): A category of actions (identified in agency guidance) that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment, and for which neither an environmental assessment nor an EIS is required (40 CFR 1508.4).

Citizen Wilderness Proposal (CWP): Areas that have been inventoried and proposed for Wilderness designation by citizens.

Closed: Generally denotes that an area is not available for a particular use or uses; refer to specific definitions found in law, regulations, or policy guidance for application to individual programs.  For example, 43 CFR 8340.0-5 sets forth the specific meaning of “closed” as it relates to OHV use, and 43 CFR 8364 defines “closed” as it relates to closure and restriction orders.

Collaboration: A cooperative process in which interested parties, often with widely varied interests, work together to seek solutions with broad support for managing public and other lands. This may or may not involve an agency as a cooperating agency.

Collaborative Partnerships and Collaborative Stewardship: Refers to people working together, sharing knowledge and resources, to achieve desired outcomes for public lands and communities within statutory and regulatory frameworks.

Conformance: Means that a proposed action shall be specifically provided for in the land use plan or, if not specifically mentioned, shall be clearly consistent with the goals, objectives, or standards of the approved land use plan.

Conservation Agreement: A formal signed agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service and other parties that implements specific actions, activities, or programs designed to eliminate or reduce threats or otherwise improve the status of a species.  CA's can be developed at a State, regional, or national level and generally includes multiple agencies at the State and Federal level, as well as tribes.  Depending on the types of commitments the BLM makes in a CA and the level of signatory authority, plan revisions or amendments may be required prior to signing the CA, or subsequently in order to implement the CA.

Conservation Strategy: A strategy outlining current activities or threats that are contributing to the decline of a species, along with the actions or strategies needed to reverse or eliminate such a decline or threats. Conservation strategies are generally developed for species of plants and animals that are designated as BLM Sensitive species or that have been determined by the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to be Federal candidates under the Endangered Species Act.

Consistency: means that the proposed land use plan does not conflict with officially approved plans, programs, and policies of tribes, other Federal agencies, and State and local governments to the extent practical within Federal law, regulation, and policy.

Cooperating Agency: Assists the lead Federal agency in developing an EA or EIS.  The Council on Environmental Quality regulations implementing NEPA defines a cooperating agency as any agency that has jurisdiction by law or special expertise for proposals covered by NEPA (40 CFR 1501.6).  Any tribe or Federal, State, or local government jurisdiction with such qualifications may become a cooperating agency by agreement with the lead agency.

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- D -

Designated Right-of-Way Corridor: A parcel of land, usually linear in shape, that is identified through Secretarial Order in a land use plan or by other management decision as a preferred location for existing and future rights-of-way grants.

Director (BLM Director): The national Director of the BLM.

Directional Drilling: The intentional deviation of a well bore from a vertical position to reach subsurface areas off to one side from the drilling site.

(DNA): A worksheet for determining and documenting that a new, site-specific proposed action both conforms to the existing land use plan(s) and is adequately analyzed in existing NEPA documents.  The signed conclusion in the worksheet is an interim step in BLM’s internal analysis process and is not an appealable decision.

- E -

Endangered Species: As defined in the Federal Endangered Species Act, any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  For terrestrial species, the USFWS determines endangered status.

Environmental Assessment (EA): A public document for which a federal agency is responsible that serves to; (a) briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or a finding of no significant impact; (b) aid an agency's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when no Environmental Impact Statement is necessary; (c) Facilitate the preparation of a statement when one is necessary.  An EA includes brief discussions of the need for the proposal and of the environmental impacts of the proposed action and other alternatives.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A written analysis of the impacts on the natural, social, and economic environment of a proposed project or resource management plan.

Evaluation (Plan Evaluation): The process of reviewing the land use plan and the periodic plan monitoring reports to determine whether the land use plan decisions and NEPA analysis are still valid and whether the plan is being implemented.

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- F -

Federal Land : Land owned by the United States , without reference to how the land was acquired or which Federal Agency administers the land, including mineral and coal estates underlying private surface.

Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA): Public Law 94-579, which gives the BLM legal authority to establish public land policy, to establish guidelines for administering such policy and to provide for management, protection, development and enhancement of the public land. Read more on this (FLPMA)

- G -

Geographic Information System (GIS): A computer system capable of storing, analyzing, and displaying data and describing places on the earth’s surface.

Geophysical Exploration: Efforts to locate deposits of oil and gas resources and to better define the sub-surface. 

Goal: A broad statement of a desired outcome.  Goals are usually not quantifiable and may not have established time frames for achievement.

Guidelines: Actions or management practices that may be used to achieve desired outcomes, sometimes expressed as best management practices.  Guidelines may be identified during the land use planning process, but they are not considered a land use plan decision unless the plan specifies that they are mandatory.  Guidelines for grazing administration must conform to 43 CFR 4180.2.

Guzzler: General term covering guzzler, wildlife drinker, or tenaja.  A natural or artificially constructed structure or device to capture and hold rain water, and make it accessible to small and/or large animals.  Most guzzlers involve above or below ground piping, storage tanks, and valves.  Tenajas are natural depressions in rock, which trap and hold water.  To some tenajas, steps are sometimes added to improve access and reduce mortality from drowning.

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- I -

Implementation Decisions: Decisions that take action to implement land use plan decisions. They are generally appealable to IBLA under 43 CFR 4.40.

Implementation Plan: A site-specific plan written to implement decisions made in a land use plan. An implementation plans usually selects and applies best management practices to meet land use plan objectives. Implementation plans are synonymous with “activity” plans. Examples of implementation plans include interdisciplinary management plans, habitat management plans, and allotment management plans.

Indian tribe (or tribe): Any Indian group in the conterminous United States that the Secretary of the Interior recognizes as possessing tribal status (listed periodically in the Federal Register).

Interim Management Policy: The BLM management policy for lands under Wilderness review which lays out the requirements for management of WSA’s so as “not to impair their suitability as wilderness.”

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- L -

Land Use Allocation: The identification in a land use plan of the activities and foreseeable development that are allowed, restricted, or excluded for all or part of the planning area, based on desired future conditions.

Land Use Plan: A set of decisions that establish management direction for land within an administrative area, as prescribed under the planning provisions of FLPMA; an assimilation of land-use and plan-level decisions developed through the planning process outlined in 43 CFR 1600, regardless of the scale at which the decisions were developed.

Land Use Plan Decision: Establishes desired outcomes and actions needed to achieve them. Decisions are reached using the planning process in 43 CFR 1600.  When they are presented to the public as proposed decisions, they can be protested to the BLM Director.  They are not appealable to IBLA.

Land Use Planning Base: The entire collection of land use plan decisions resulting from RMPs, MFPs, planning analyses, the adoption of other agency plans, or any other type of plan where land use-plan-level decisions are reached.

Leasable Minerals: Minerals such as coal, oil shale, oil and gas, phosphate, potash, sodium, geothermal resources, and all other minerals that may be acquired under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended.

Locatable Minerals: A mineral subject to location under the 1872 mining laws.  Examples of such minerals would be gold, silver, copper, and lead as compared to oil and natural gas, which are leasable minerals.

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- M -

Management Decision: A decision made by the BLM to manage public lands. Management decisions include both land use plan decisions and implementation decisions.

Monitoring (Plan Monitoring): The process of tracking the implementation of land use plan decisions.

Multi-jurisdictional Planning: Collaborative planning in which the purpose is to address land use planning issues for an area, such as an entire watershed or other landscape unit, in which there is a mix of public and/or private land ownership and adjoining or overlapping tribal, State, local government, or other Federal agency authorities.

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- N -

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969: A law enacted on January 1, 1970 that established a national policy to maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.  It established the Council on Environmental Quality for coordinating environmental matters at the federal level and to serve as the advisor to the President on such matters.  The law made all federal actions and proposals that could have significant impact on the environment subject to review by federal, state, and local environmental authorities.

Native (Indigenous) Species: A species of plant or animal that naturally occurs in an area and that was not introduced by humans.

Notice of Intent (NOI): In NEPA, a NOI is published in the Federal Register as the official agency public announcement that a proposed planning effort is starting. During this part of the planning process, the agency solicits public input to identify major resource issues to be addressed in the proposed plan. At this point the public will have at least 30 days to provide comments pertaining to the area to be addressed in the plan.

No Surface Occupancy (NSO): A fluid minerals leasing constraint that prohibits occupancy or disturbance on all or part of the lease surface to protect special values or uses. Lessees may exploit the fluid mineral resources under the leases restricted by this constraint through use of directional drilling from sites outside the NSO area.

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- O -

Objective: A description of a desired condition for a resource.  Objectives can be quantified and measured and, where possible, have established time frames for achievement.

Open: Generally denotes that an area is available for a particular use or uses. Refer to specific program definitions found in law, regulations, or policy guidance for application to individual programs. For example, 43 CFR 8340.0-5 defines the specific meaning of “open” as it relates to OHV use.

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- P -

Permitted Use: The forage allocated by, or under the guidance of, an applicable land use plan for livestock grazing in an allotment under a permit or lease; expressed in Animal Unit Months (AUMs) (43 CFR 4100.0-5).

Permittee: A person or company permitted to graze livestock on public land.

Petroglyph: A form of rock art created by incising, scratching or pecking designs into rock surfaces.

Pictograph: A form of rock art created by applying mineral based or organic paint to rock surfaces.

Planning Analysis: A process using appropriate resource data and NEPA analysis to provide a basis for decisions in areas not yet covered by an RMP.

Planning Criteria: The standards, rules, and other factors developed by managers and interdisciplinary teams for their use in forming judgments about decision making, analysis, and data collection during planning.  Planning criteria streamlines and simplifies the resource management planning actions.

Provincial Advisory Council (PAC): see Resource Advisory Council.

Public Land: Land or interest in land owned by the United States and administered by the Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Agriculture, except lands located on the Outer Continental Shelf and land held for the benefit of Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos.  Examples are National Forests, National Parks and Monuments and National Wildlife Refuges.

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- R -

Research and Natural Area (RNA): Research Natural Areas (RNAs) are areas that contain important ecological and scientific values and are managed for minimum human disturbance.  RNAs are primarily used for non-manipulative research and baseline data gathering on relatively unaltered community types.  Since natural processes are allowed to dominate, RNAs also make excellent controls for similar communities that are being actively managed.  In addition, RNAs provide an essential network of diverse habitat types that will be preserved in their natural state for future generations.

Resource Advisory Council (RAC): A council established by the Secretary of the Interior to provide advice or recommendations to BLM management.  In some states, Provincial Advisory Councils (PACs) are functional equivalents of RACs.

Resource Management Plan (RMP): The BLM considers resource management plans to be synonymous with land use plans so the terms may be used interchangeably.  Land use plan decisions made in RMP’s establish goals and objectives for resource management (such as desired future conditions), the measures needed to achieve these goals and objectives, and parameters for using public lands.  Land use planning decisions are usually made on broad scale and customarily guide subsequent site-specific implementation decisions.

Resource Use Level: the level of use allowed within an area.  It is based on the desired outcomes and land use allocations in the land use plan.  Targets or goals for resource use levels are established on an area-wide or broad watershed level in the land use plan.  Site-specific resource use levels are normally determined at the implementation level, based on site-specific resource conditions and needs as determined through resource monitoring and assessments.

Revision: The process of completely rewriting the land use plan due to changes in the planning area affecting major portions of the plan or the entire plan.

Right-of-Way (ROW): An easement or permit, which authorizes public land to be used for a specified purpose that generally requires a long narrow strip of land.  Examples are roads, power-lines, pipelines, etc.

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- S -

Scale: Refers to the geographic area and data resolution under examination in an assessment or planning effort.

Seismic Exploration: Seismic exploration remains the most common way to locate sub-surface resources.  The process involves sending sound waves into the earth at one point and recording them at others after having passed through differing geological strata.  There are two common methods utilized today.  One method involves the detonation of small explosive charges.  The other method consists of a truck that drops a huge weight at various intervals.  The data collected is used to show probable sub-surface resource deposits.

Social Science: The study of society and of individual relationships in and to society, generally including one or more of the academic disciplines of sociology, economics, political science, geography, history, anthropology, and psychology.

Standard: A description of the physical and biological conditions or degree of function required for healthy, sustainable lands (e.g., land health standards).

Standard Lease Terms and Conditions: Areas may be open to leasing with no specific management decisions defined in a Resource Management Plan; however, these areas are subject to lease terms and conditions as defined on the lease form (Form 3100-11, Offer to Lease and Lease for Oil and Gas; and Form 3200-24, Offer to Lease and Lease for Geothermal Resources).

State Implementation Plan (SIP): A strategic document, prepared by a State (or other authorized air quality regulatory agency) and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which thoroughly describes how requirements of the Clean Air Act will be implemented (including standards to be achieved, control measures to be applied, enforcement actions in case of violation, etc.).

Special Status Species: Includes proposed species, listed species, and candidate species under the ESA; State-listed species; and BLM State Director-designated sensitive species (see BLM Manual 6840 - Special Status Species Policy).

Strategic Plan (BLM Strategic Plan): A plan that establishes the overall direction for the BLM. This plan is guided by the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, covers a 5-year period, and is updated every 3 years.  It is consistent with FLPMA and other laws affecting the public lands.

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- T -

Threatened Species: 1) Any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and 2) as further defined by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL): An estimate of the total quantity of pollutants (from all sources: point, non-point, and natural) that may be allowed into waters without exceeding applicable water quality criteria.

Tribe: See Indian tribe.

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- V -

Visual Resource Management (VRM): A system for evaluating the visual resources of a given area and for determining what degree of protection, rehabilitation, or enhancement is desirable and possible.

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- W -

Wilderness Area: An area of public land designated by an Act of Congress to be protected in its natural condition according to the requirements of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Wilderness Characteristics: Identified by congress in the 1964 wilderness act; namely size, naturalness, outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation, and supplemental values such as geological, archeological, historical, ecological, scenic, or other features. It is required that the area possess at least 5,000 acres or more of contiguous or be of a size to make practical its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; be substantially natural or generally appear to have been primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man being substantially unnoticeable; and have either outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.

Wilderness Inventory Areas (WIA): These areas are found in Utah that were not made into WSA’s but citizens inventoried and found wilderness characteristics. During the Clinton Administration, the BLM re-inventoried these lands, completed in 1999, and found Wilderness characteristics on these lands.

Wilderness Study Area (WSA): Created by the BLM through the inventory process of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which required the BLM to inventory lands under its management authority for wilderness quality and protect those lands until Congress decides whether or not to designate the land as Wilderness.

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See NEPA Flow Chart (how it works)


ACEC - Area of Critical Environmental Concern

ADR - Alternative Dispute Resolution

APD - Application for Permit to Drill

AUM - Animal Unit Month

BLM - Bureau of Land Management

CA - Conservation Agreement

CEQ - Council on Environmental Quality

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations

CS - Conservation Strategy

CX (or CE) - Categorical Exclusion

DM - Departmental Manual

DNA - Documentation of Land Use Plan Conformance and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Adequacy

DOI - Department of the Interior

DR - Decision Record (for an EA)

EA - Environmental Assessment

EIS - Environmental Impact Statement

EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

ESA - Endangered Species Act

FACA - Federal Advisory Committee Act

FWS - Fish and Wildlife Service

FLPMA - Federal Land Policy and Management Act

FONSI - Finding of No Significant Impact

GIS - Geographic Information System

IBLA - Interior Board of Land Appeals

IMP - Interim Management Policy

LAC - Limits of Acceptable Change

LUP - Land use plan

MFP - Management Framework Plan

MOU - Memorandum of Understanding

NOA - Notice of Availability

NOI - Notice of Intent

NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act

NMFS - National Marine Fisheries Service

OHV - Off-Highway Vehicle

PAC - Provincial Advisory Council

POD - Plan of Development

RAC - Resource Advisory Council

RMP - Resource Management Plan

RNA - Research and Natural Area

ROD - Record of Decision (for an EIS)

ROS - Recreation Opportunity Spectrum

T&E - Threatened and Endangered

TMDL - Total Maximum Daily Load

U.S.C. - United States Code

VRM - Visual Resource Management

More Definitions and Terms

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