Restored: Your Voice for Wildlife – The National Wildlife Federation Blog

May 16, 2024 | by

The National Environmental Policy Act is the nation’s most fundamental tool for properly vetting the impacts of major federal projects on wildlife, our environment, and people; for identifying less environmentally damaging alternatives; and for giving the public a say in federal actions that can have a profound impact on their lives and livelihoods. For 50 years this crucial law has required public notice and input for major federal projects before any action is taken—from building a highway through sensitive habitats to constructing an electrical substation next to a community.

But in 2020, protections under the National Environmental Policy Act were drastically rolled back. The rollbacks were intended to allow federal agencies to ignore climate impacts, undermine science, and make it more difficult for people to have a say in major federal decisions on projects and activities that impact public health and safety, as well as wildlife.

An otter (dark brown with small ears) pokes its mouth into the water.
River otter. Credit: Neal Herbert/NPS

Fortunately,  the provisions that affirm the responsibility of federal agencies to consider climate change and community concerns when making decisions about new projects were recently restored and, in some cases, made more concrete. Tribal Nations are now properly recognized as sovereigns requiring government-to-government consultation as well as adhering to the principles of free, prior, and informed consent. The National Environmental Policy Act is again helping to ensure that wildlife and communities are protected by requiring a full assessment of impacts and giving people a say.   

River otters are particularly sensitive to water pollution and habitat disruption. River otters spend more than half their time on land but hunt and travel in the water—they depend on healthy rivers, lakes, streams, marshes, wetlands, and the lands adjacent to those waters. If water, land, and climate protections are not fully considered when planning federal projects, wildlife like river otters and people living nearby could be at risk.  

On behalf of wildlife and people, we are grateful for these changes and for the tens of thousands of wildlife advocates who stepped up, spoke out, and took action in support of them. The administration’s actions to restore and enhance provisions in the National Environmental Policy Act will make communities healthier and safer, and will help our treasured wildlife thrive in the face of climate change.


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