[Federal Register: December 12, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 239)]
[Page 77661-77664]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Information Collection Submitted to the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) for Approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: New information collection--NEPA compliance checklist.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has submitted the 
collection of information requirement described below to the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) for approval under the provisions of the 
Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). You may obtain copies of the collection 
requirement and related forms and explanatory material by contacting 
the Service's Information Collection Clearance Officer at the phone 
number listed below. The Service is soliciting comment and suggestions 
on the requirement as described below.

DATES: Consideration will be given to all comments received on or 
before January 11, 2001. OMB has up to 60 days to approve or disapprove 
an information collection, but may respond after 30 days. Therefore to 
ensure maximum consideration, OMB should receive public comments by the 
above referenced date.

ADDRESSES: Interested parties should send comments and suggestions on 
the requirement to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 
Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Interior Desk Officer (1018-
XXXX), New Executive Office Building, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, 
DC 20503 and they should send a copy of the comments to: Rebecca A. 
Mullin, Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 
22203, (703) 358-2278 or Rebecca_Mullin@fws.gov E-mail.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jack Hicks, (703) 358-1851, fax (703) 
358-1837, or Jack_Hicks@fws.gov E-mail.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320, which 
implement the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (Pub. 
L. 104-13), require that interested members of the public have the 
opportunity to comment on information and record keeping activities.
    On September 1, 2000 the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service signed Director's Order No. 127 establishing policy and 
procedures for the preparation of an administrative record for 
complying with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) by Service personnel who administer Federal financial 
assistance programs. This record was developed in the form 3-2185 
adopted by the Service as the NEPA Compliance Checklist.
    On September 12, 2000 the Service published in the Federal Register 
(FR Vol. 65, No. 177, p55032) a 60 day notice and request for public 
comment on this information collection. That comment period ended on 
November 13, 2000. We received the following comments from this earlier 
    1. One private individual E-mailed asking where she could get 
copies of the form and supporting information.
    Response: She was referred by return E-mail to the Service's Home 
Page with directions for navigation to the Director's Order. A sample 
of the new form was attached to the E-mail response.
    2. A State employee E-mailed the following comments.
    A. The wording on Item 6 is so broad that almost anything could be 
categorically excluded (2 examples were included with the comment), 
please remove this Item.
    B. Categorical exclusions are classes of actions which do not 
individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human 
environment. The wording for Item 6 carries this to a new level that

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will cause confusion and unnecessary writing of EA's.
    Response to both: The language in item 6 in the NEPA Compliance 
Checklist is not new to the Service. It has been a requirement in the 
Council on Environmental Quality regulations since 1978, and in the 
Departmental Manual (516 DM 2, App 2.6) since (at least) September 26, 
1984. This requirement has been referenced in the Service's NEPA Manual 
since 1984. The intent is clear, Federal Agencies must address 
cumulative impacts of their actions. Your concern is how broadly (or 
how stringently) this is interpreted, particularly when it exists as an 
exception to a categorical exclusion. The Service has no absolute 
requirement as to when a categorical exclusion or an exception apply, 
it is not possible due to the complexity of our programs. In the past 
our application of this requirement and the interpretation by the 
courts of our decisions have been based on a rule of reason. Item 6 
stays in the document, but as always, will be applied reasonably to 
more complex issues. The Service will continue to take a reasonable 
approach, consistent with NEPA, when determining when to prepare an EA 
or EIS.
    3. A State wrote that they thought the new language was more 
restrictive than they have been using in the past and explained a 
process they use currently.
    Response: The items on the checklist are the minimum thresholds for 
initiating either an Environmental Assessment or and Environmental 
Impact Statement. The process you currently use, the memorandum of 
understanding between your agency and the State Historic Preservation 
Office, is not endorsed by the FWS, DOI, or CEQ.
    4. Another State wrote that the Service should delay implementation 
of this checklist until after the Department has issued new manual 
chapters regarding DOI policy on NEPA.
    Response: The checklist spells out the current minimum requirements 
for NEPA and will be changed to include the new items that may be added 
to the list by the Department of Interiors policy development process 
currently underway. What we are doing with the checklist now will gain 
approval from OMB for use of the checklist and ensure that everyone 
knows what the current minimum requirements are for NEPA consideration.
    No other comments were received.
    Description and Use: The Service administers several grant programs 
authorized by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, the Federal 
Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, the Anadromous Fish Conservation 
Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Vessel Act, the Sportfishing 
and Boating Safety Act, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the 
Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, and through 
other Acts and authorities. The Service uses the information collected 
to make a determination as to National Environmental Policy Act 
compliance. The State or other grantee uses the checklist as a guide to 
general NEPA requirements and it becomes an administrative record to 
meet their assurances requirements for receiving a grant. Grant 
applicants provide the information requested in the NEPA Compliance 
Checklist in order to qualify to receive benefits in the form of grants 
for purposes outlined in the applicable law. This form is designed to 
cause the minimum impact in the form of hourly burden on grant 
applicants and still get all the required information. Only about 3 
percent of the Service's applicants for either a new grant or for an 
amendment to an existing grant will meet the criteria, and need to 
complete the NEPA Compliance Checklist.

Title of Form: NEPA Compliance Checklist

FWS Form Number: 3-2185

    OMB Control Number: 1018-XXXX The Service will receive a control 
number from OMB prior to collecting any information. An agency may not 
conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a 
collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 
control number.
    Supplemental Information: The Service has submitted the following 
information collection requirements to OMB for review and approval 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. Comments 
are invited on (1) whether the collection of information is necessary 
for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including 
whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy 
of the agency's estimates of burden of the collection of information; 
(3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the 
information to be collected; and, (4) ways to minimize the burden of 
collection of information on respondents, including through the use of 
appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological 
collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
    Frequency: Generally annually.
    Description of Respondents: State Government, territorial (the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth 
of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American 
Samoa), local governments, and others receiving grant funds.

                             Completion Time and Annual Response and Burden Estimate
                  Form name                     Completion time per checklist   Annual response   Annual burden
NEPA Compliance Checklist....................  \1/2\ Hour.....................             160               80


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    Dated: November 17, 2000.
Rebecca A. Mullin,
Fish and Wildlife Service Information Collection Clearance Officer.
[FR Doc. 00-31508 Filed 12-11-00; 8:45 am]