Commenting on Environmental Documents

road closed sign

It doesn’t matter which agency you are working with, the process for commenting on environmental documents is similar.

Many people don’t believe that federal agencies, or state agencies for that matter, care about or want input from the public they serve. That is not the case. The public input process is actually integral to many planning processes and implementation of actions cannot proceed without it.

However, understanding when, where and how to give comments is sometimes confusing. Using the current Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for travel management in Eastern Idaho as an example, I will try to demystify the process a bit.

First, you have to realize that there is a project that may concern you. You can visit the websites of just about any government agency and request to be placed on an email list that will notify you of upcoming projects. This is the best way to stay informed on projects that you might have an interest in.

For the current project, you can find the EA by visiting following website: , and clicking the Documents button on the left side. There is also a link on this page for an interactive map of the proposed project and a Participate Now button where you can give comments. You can also email or snail mail your comments to the following: Email: , Surface mail: BLM Upper Snake Field Office, 1405 Hollipark Drive, Idaho Falls, ID 83401. Respective websites will always have the contact information necessary for commenting.

There is a lot of information in an EA. You don’t need to read all of it to make important comments, but you will need to understand the issues. It is always good to read the introduction and purpose and need statement, basically everything on pages 9-12 in this particular document. From there, if your interests are only in a specific area, you can look for references to that area in provided tables, graphs and charts and the table of contents. Here, pages 16-24 cover how alternatives were arrived at and what the alternatives are. This is the meat of the proposal. However, to understand where they are coming from, the following section, Affected Environment and Environmental Effects, will need to be read or referenced as you consider the alternatives. This section extends from page 25 to page 124, so there is a lot of information there.

I might as well say it here, this is science. The document is full of graphs, charts and tables and that is where you are going to find the most information. It is understandable, but is professionally written, not really in layman terms. You will have to put up with that.

Now, on to comments. If you use any method other than the “Participate Now” button, make sure you identify what document you are commenting on as the agency may have several going at the same time. Whichever way you choose to submit them, your comments should reflect that you have read and carefully considered the document.

Develop your own opinion based on the information provided. Remember that the reason that there is a public input process is because there are many views and preferences out there, not just yours. In this particular case, there are those who feel every road and trail should allow motorized use and others who believe that they should be totally non-motorized. Within the motorized group, there are advocates for two-wheeled motorcycles and those with side-by-sides and still others who believe that everything should be open to full sized pick-ups. Your opinions matter, but they aren’t the only ones out there.

Here are some tips from the Environmental Protection Agency on how to make comments:

·       Be concise, but support your claims. Explain your views as clearly as possible, avoiding the use of profanity or personal threats. Explain why you agree or disagree; suggest alternatives and substitute language for your requested changes. Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns and suggest alternatives. 

·       Base your comments on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted by the agency’s proposal. Describe any assumptions and provide the technical information and/or data that you used. If you estimate potential costs or burdens, explain how you arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be reproduced. 

·       Address trade-offs and opposing views. 

·       If you are commenting on a particular word, phrase or sentence, provide the page number, column,

and paragraph citation from the document. The comment process is not a vote—one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters.

See more tips by visiting: .

Reviewing and commenting on a government document can be time-consuming, but if the issue is important to you, you should make the effort. You won’t regret being involved in the process.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho