What is NEPA?
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 was enacted to address concerns about environmental quality. NEPA’s main objectives are as follows:
- Ensure that federal agencies evaluate the potential environmental impacts of proposed programs, projects, and actions before decisions are made to implement them.
- Inform the public of proposed federal activities that have the potential to affect the human environment, including the natural and physical environments.
- Encourage and facilitate public involvement in the decision-making process.
NEPA requires a federal agency to analyze impacts from a proposal and its alternatives and provides the public with opportunities to participate in the process. The decision maker will be the U.S. Congress through legislation.
What is a Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS)?
Decisions regarding military land withdrawals are at the discretion of Congress; therefore, an LEIS is being prepared. An LEIS is different from a typical EIS in that there is no Record of Decision. The decision on the final action will be made by Congress and written into law. An LEIS must:
- Identify and describe the affected environment;
- Evaluate the potential environmental consequences from a range of reasonable alternatives; and
- Identify environmental permits and specific mitigation measures to prevent or minimize environmental impacts, if required.
An LEIS is the detailed statement included in a recommendation or report on a legislative proposal to Congress. It is considered part of the formal transmittal of a legislative proposal to Congress.
What is a federal land withdrawal?
- The Secretary of the Interior has the authority to withdraw lands in federal ownership, effectively removing an area of federal land from settlement, sale, location, or entry for the purpose of limiting activities under those laws to maintain other public values in the area or reserving it for a particular public purpose or program.
- Public lands may also be withdrawn and reserved for military training and testing in support of national defense requirements. Military withdrawals and reservations of 5,000 or more acres are authorized by Act of Congress.
- Congressional withdrawals are legislative actions taken by Congress in the form of public laws, which is the type of withdrawal being evaluated for the Army training lands in Alaska.
What is the Army proposing to do?
The Department of the Army (Army) is proposing to formally request that Congress extend the current withdrawal of 869,862 acres of public land and water area from public use for 25 years or more, or assign control of the lands to the Secretary of the Army until such time as the Army determines it no longer needs them for military purposes. The current withdrawal expires in 2026.The Army has determined that there is a continuing military need for these lands and is requesting to extend its use of the three training areas. Congressional approval of a legislative proposal is required to withdraw the lands.
What is an LEIS and why does the Army need to prepare one?
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the Army’s implementing NEPA regulations require the Army to provide an analysis of the environmental impacts that could result from implementing a proposed action or any reasonable alternatives, solicit relevant input from all interested parties, and make this information available to all stakeholders. Since the proposed action potentially results in significant impacts to the environment, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the appropriate level of NEPA analysis to evaluate potential impacts and identify appropriate mitigation measures. Because the decision-maker will be the U.S. Congress through legislation, this is a Legislative EIS and will be part of the formal transmittal of the legislative proposal to Congress.
What is the Army’s purpose and need for extending the withdrawal?
The land withdrawal extension is needed to ensure that the Army will retain full and continued use of the training areas to successfully execute and fulfill its mission in Alaska. Access to the withdrawn lands enables the Army to:
- Produce a force trained to mobilize, deploy, fight and win anywhere in the world,
- Train in conditions that match or closely resemble all possible environments throughout the world, including arctic and subarctic conditions, and
- Coordinate and conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground operations with the U.S. Air Force to ensure the effectiveness of this training.
What alternatives is the Army considering for the lands withdrawal?
Alternatives to be considered include 1) extending the lands withdrawal for 25 years or more, or assigning control of the lands to the Secretary of the Army, and 2) the No Action alternative, which would return uncontaminated portions of the withdrawn lands to management under the Department of the Interior. Other reasonable alternatives raised during the scoping process that can meet the project purpose and need will be considered for evaluation in the LEIS.
What is the schedule for completion of the LEIS and the withdrawal extension?
The entire LEIS process is expected to take approximately two years. A Draft LEIS will be published in the fall of 2022. In accordance with 40 CFR § 1506.8 a final LEIS is not required for the legislative EIS process. Public comments on the Draft LEIS will be incorporated and submitted as part of the legislative proposal. Opportunities for public participation are described below.
Will the Army coordinate with other agencies on this project?
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office is a cooperating agency for the LEIS and is actively participating in its development and review. Throughout development of the LEIS, the Army will coordinate with appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, Alaska Native tribes, and other members of the public about the proposed land withdrawal extension.
How can I get involved?
After the Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 30-day scoping period for the public to learn about the proposed action and provide comments. The Army will host virtual public scoping meetings during the scoping period and will advertise them in area newspapers. Comments received during the scoping period will help inform and develop the LEIS analysis.
The second opportunity for public comment comes when the Draft LEIS is published. Notices announcing the availability of the Draft LEIS will be published in the Federal Register and in local newspapers. An additional set of public meetings will be publicized and, if feasible, held in person. If in-person meetings are not possible due to public health concerns, the meetings will be held in a virtual setting.
More detailed instructions on how to get involved can be found here.
Can I access information about the project if I don’t have a computer?
Project information and LEIS documents will be available at the following information repositories:
- Fairbanks: Noel Wien Public Library, 1215 Cowles St., Fairbanks, AK
- Delta Junction: Delta Community Library, 2291 Deborah St., Delta Junction, AK
- North Pole: North Pole Branch Library, 656 NPHS Blvd., North Pole, AK
- Anchorage: Anchorage Public Library, 3600 Denali St., Anchorage, AK
In the event the repositories are closed, copies of the Draft LEIS may be provided upon request.
How do I submit comments or who can I contact if I have additional questions about the project?
Comments can be submitted here on the project website or by email to: email@example.com.
Comments can also be mailed to the following address:
Directorate of Public Works, ATTN: AMIM-AKP-E (L. Sample) 1046 Marks Road #4500 Fort Wainwright, AK 99703-4500
Questions or requests for further information may be directed to the Public Affairs Office at:
Grant Sattler AMIM–AKG–PA (Sattler) 1060 Gaffney Road #5900, Fort Wainwright, AK 99703–5900 Phone: 907-353-6701 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will the land withdrawal continuation affect access to the lands?
Subsistence uses are allowed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act as well as the Sikes Act. The proposed extension of the lands withdrawal will not change access to the lands; access will be the same as it is under current management.