U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Environmental Impact Assessment Review 42 (2013) 95–104


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires U.S. Forest Service planning processes to be conducted by interdisciplinary teams of resource specialists to analyze and disclose the likely environmental impacts of proposed natural resource management actions on Forest Service lands. Multiple challenges associated with these processes have been a source of frustration for the agency. One of these challenges involves administrative appeals through which public entities can challenge a Forest Service decision following a NEPA process. These appeals instigate an internal review process and can result in an affirmation of the Forest Service decision, a reversal of that decision, or additional work that re-initiates all or part of the NEPA process. We examine the best predictors of appeals and their outcomes on a representative sample of 489 Forest Service NEPA processes that were decided between 2007 and 2009. While certain factors associated with pre-existing social contexts (such as a history of controversy) or pre-determined elements of a proposed action (such as the extraction of forest products) predispose certain processes to a higher risk of appeals, other practices and process-related strategies within the control of the agency also appear to bear meaningful influence on the occurrence of appeals and their outcomes. Appeals and their outcomes were most strongly related to programmatic, structural (turnover of personnel in particular), and relationship risks (both internal and external) within the processes, suggesting the need for greater focus within the agency on cultivating positive internal and external relationships to manage the risk of appeals.