What It Is

The National Park Service NEPA Handbook (2015) sets forth the policies and procedures by which the NPS meets its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. The 2015 NEPA Handbook incorporates new requirements and practices that emphasize the need for concise, focused and timely NEPA reviews and documentation.

From the report

This handbook synthesizes the legal and policy requirements and considerations related to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 United States Code (USC) 4321 et seq.) and associated guidance applicable to the National Park Service (NPS). It contains the information necessary to comply with NEPA and conduct sound environmental planning.

Although this handbook is intended to be comprehensive, it is not an all-inclusive, step-by-step NEPA “cookbook.” Therefore, in addition to becoming familiar with this handbook, you are encouraged to pursue opportunities for NEPA training and to seek NEPA-related advice, when needed, from your regional environmental coordinator (REC) and the Environmental Planning and Compliance Branch of the Washington Support Office (WASO) Environmental Quality Division (EQD).


Chapter 1: Introduction to the National Environmental Policy Act provides a general overview of several aspects of the act, including how NEPA relates to the NPS mission, the circumstances that trigger the need to comply with NEPA, the basic characteristics of a NEPA review, and the methods for documenting compliance with NEPA.

Chapter 2: Using Existing NEPA Analyses describes options and procedures for using existing NEPA analyses to meet a proposal’s NEPA documentation and analysis requirements, either in full or in part.

Chapter 3: Categorical Exclusions provides information about the use of categorical exclusions to meet NEPA review requirements for certain types of NPS actions and the process for applying and documenting categorical exclusions.

Chapter 4: The NEPA Process for Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements describes the elements of the NEPA planning and analysis process for environmental assessments and environmental impact statements in detail.

Chapter 5: NPS Review of External Environmental Review Documents discusses how the National Park Service provides comments on other agencies’ environmental review documents through a formal process required by DOI.

Why It Matters

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as amended, is landmark environmental protection legislation establishing as a goal for Federal decision making a balance between use and preservation of natural and cultural resources. NEPA requires all Federal agencies to:

  1. Prepare in-depth studies of the impacts of and alternatives to proposed “major Federal actions”
  2. Use the information contained in such studies in deciding whether to proceed with the actions
  3. Diligently attempt to involve the interested and affected public before any decision affecting the environment is made (DO-12)


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