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Title: Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.

Abstract

New spatial data and advancements in GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses of the large datasets required when making programmatic evaluations of the ecological effects of proposed activities that cover a large area or region. Understanding the environmental impacts of proposed human developments is critical to making appropriate siting decisions and designing mitigation strategies to reduce impacts on important resources. Impact analyses conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) or Environmental Assessments (EAs) are intended to determine the resource-specific impacts of proposed activities of federal agencies and their alternatives using the best available information. Impacts to ecological resources are often a primary focus of these analyses. Information used in NEPA analyses include some measure of the known or probable presence of plants and wildlife in the project area, with special emphasis placed on threatened, endangered, and other special-status species. Site-specific information pertaining to ecological resources is usually easier to obtain for small-scale activities such as a local facility, road, or transmission upgrade project, where the ability to conduct fieldwork is more often feasible. However, site-specific data is more difficult-and sometimes impossible-to obtain for proposed activities that could affect a large areamore » or region. These types of analyses often are considered in programmatic NEPA documents, in which a federal agency evaluates the implementation of a broad program or plan. Under these programmatic evaluations, the exact location and size of developments are often not known. Because obtaining quantitative information for ecological resources at such large spatial scales is difficult, programmatic impact evaluations typically rely on sketchy or partial information such as recorded species occurrences, species ranges, and general habitat descriptions. However, new spatial data and improved GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses using large, readily available datasets. The availability of large-scale regional data such as GAP land-cover models or species habitat suitability models, combined with more robust spatial analysis procedures available through ArcGIS for Desktop software, allowed the analysis of multiple datasets at large spatial scales. This enabled researchers to surpass previous qualitative evaluations by developing a more accurate and quantitative approach for determining the environmental impacts of human activities at larger spatial scales. These approaches, combined with the utility of ModelBuilder and operability of Python scripts in ArcGIS, allow a more timely and cost-effective synthesis of available spatial data for programmatic evaluations and add a quantitative basis to environmental decision making.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ;  [1]
  1. (Environmental Science Division)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
DOI, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
OSTI Identifier:
1040691
Report Number(s):
ANL/EVS/JA-73286
TRN: US201211%%47
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC02-06CH11357
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: ArcUser; Journal Issue: Spring 2012
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
ENGLISH
Subject:
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; AVAILABILITY; DECISION MAKING; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS; HABITAT; IMPLEMENTATION; MITIGATION; SYNTHESIS; US NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT

Citation Formats

Walston, L.J., LaGory, K.E., Vinikour, W., Van Lonkhuyzen, R.L., and Cantwell, B. Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.. United States: N. p., 2012. Web.
Walston, L.J., LaGory, K.E., Vinikour, W., Van Lonkhuyzen, R.L., & Cantwell, B. Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.. United States.
Walston, L.J., LaGory, K.E., Vinikour, W., Van Lonkhuyzen, R.L., and Cantwell, B. 2012. "Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_1040691,
title = {Improving landscape-level environmental impact evaluations.},
author = {Walston, L.J. and LaGory, K.E. and Vinikour, W. and Van Lonkhuyzen, R.L. and Cantwell, B.},
abstractNote = {New spatial data and advancements in GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses of the large datasets required when making programmatic evaluations of the ecological effects of proposed activities that cover a large area or region. Understanding the environmental impacts of proposed human developments is critical to making appropriate siting decisions and designing mitigation strategies to reduce impacts on important resources. Impact analyses conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) or Environmental Assessments (EAs) are intended to determine the resource-specific impacts of proposed activities of federal agencies and their alternatives using the best available information. Impacts to ecological resources are often a primary focus of these analyses. Information used in NEPA analyses include some measure of the known or probable presence of plants and wildlife in the project area, with special emphasis placed on threatened, endangered, and other special-status species. Site-specific information pertaining to ecological resources is usually easier to obtain for small-scale activities such as a local facility, road, or transmission upgrade project, where the ability to conduct fieldwork is more often feasible. However, site-specific data is more difficult-and sometimes impossible-to obtain for proposed activities that could affect a large area or region. These types of analyses often are considered in programmatic NEPA documents, in which a federal agency evaluates the implementation of a broad program or plan. Under these programmatic evaluations, the exact location and size of developments are often not known. Because obtaining quantitative information for ecological resources at such large spatial scales is difficult, programmatic impact evaluations typically rely on sketchy or partial information such as recorded species occurrences, species ranges, and general habitat descriptions. However, new spatial data and improved GIS tools allow much more comprehensive and quantitative analyses using large, readily available datasets. The availability of large-scale regional data such as GAP land-cover models or species habitat suitability models, combined with more robust spatial analysis procedures available through ArcGIS for Desktop software, allowed the analysis of multiple datasets at large spatial scales. This enabled researchers to surpass previous qualitative evaluations by developing a more accurate and quantitative approach for determining the environmental impacts of human activities at larger spatial scales. These approaches, combined with the utility of ModelBuilder and operability of Python scripts in ArcGIS, allow a more timely and cost-effective synthesis of available spatial data for programmatic evaluations and add a quantitative basis to environmental decision making.},
doi = {},
journal = {ArcUser},
number = Spring 2012,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2012,
month = 4
}
  • Cumulative environmental impact assessment deals with the occasional use in practical application of environmental impact assessment process. The main reasons are the difficulty of cumulative impact identification caused by lack of data, inability to measure the intensity and spatial effect of all types of impacts and the uncertainty of their future evolution. This work presents a method proposal to predict cumulative impacts on the basis of landscape vulnerability evaluation. For this purpose, qualitative assessment of landscape ecological stability is conducted and major vulnerability indicators of environmental and socio-economic receptors are specified and valuated. Potential cumulative impacts and the overall impactmore » significance are predicted quantitatively in modified Argonne multiple matrixes while considering the vulnerability of affected landscape receptors and the significance of impacts identified individually. The method was employed in the concrete environmental impact assessment process conducted in Slovakia. The results obtained in this case study reflect that this methodology is simple to apply, valid for all types of impacts and projects, inexpensive and not time-consuming. The objectivity of the partial methods used in this procedure is improved by quantitative landscape ecological stability evaluation, assignment of weights to vulnerability indicators based on the detailed characteristics of affected factors, and grading impact significance. - Highlights: • This paper suggests a method proposal for cumulative impact prediction. • The method includes landscape vulnerability evaluation. • The vulnerability of affected receptors is determined by their sensitivity. • This method can increase the objectivity of impact prediction in the EIA process.« less
  • This paper proposes that, for installations with major health risks, it may be practical and desirable to demand that and environmental impact study demonstrate not only that the emissions respect all applicable regulations (as is current practice), but that it actually evaluate the impacts, using the impact pathway methodology (i.e., analyze the dispersion of pollutants and apply dose-response functions to quantify impacts on health, vegetation, etc.). As a case study the authors apply the impact pathway analysis to the emissions data for an incinerator of toxic chemical waste, and they obtain several interesting results that could resolve some of themore » issues raised during the authorization process. They argue that the uncertainties, even though large, do not negate the value of the information. The results of such an impact analysis could also be used to communicate the risks posed by a proposed installation, fi a generally accepted set of reference risks is developed.« less
  • Scenarios and scenario analysis have become popular approaches in organizational planning and participatory exercises in pursuit of sustainable development. However, they are little used, at least in any formal way, in environmental impact assessment (EIA). This is puzzling because EIA is a process specifically dedicated to exploring options for more-sustainable (i.e., less environmentally damaging) futures. In this paper, we review the state of the art associated with scenarios and scenario analysis, and describe two areas where scenario analysis could be particularly helpful in EIA: (a) in defining future developments for cumulative effects assessment; and (b) in considering the influence ofmore » contextual change - e.g. climate change - on impact forecasts for specific projects. We conclude by encouraging EIA practitioners to learn about the promise of scenario-based analysis and implement scenario-based methods so that EIA can become more effective in fostering sustainable development.« less
  • The number of environmental licence applications for projects affecting Indigenous peoples in Brazil has increased since the implementation of a major infrastructure program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento) in 2007. This increase has caused problems for Brazilian agencies involved in environmental licensing procedures (IBAMA, FUNAI and others). We analyze the Brazilian environmental licensing procedure for situations involving Indigenous peoples, Maroons (Quilombolas) or other traditional communities in order to identify potential improvements for Brazil and potentially other countries. Although Brazilian procedures are consistent with international best practice in environmental licensing, in practice social impacts are inadequately addressed, mitigation measures are poorlymore » implemented, and there is a lack of enforcement and compliance. The paper is based on document analysis and interviews with key actors in governmental and non-governmental organizations and Indigenous leaders. We suggest that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes need to be conducted at the earliest stages of project planning, and that Indigenous peoples should actively participate in impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation processes. In order to achieve a social licence to operate, there needs to be full recognition of traditional knowledge and acceptance of Indigenous values and concepts. We also recommend increased involvement of social experts and mediators as well as improved accountability, enforcement and grievance mechanisms in the licensing process. - Highlights: • The Brazilian environmental licensing system needs to address social impacts better. • Communities need to be consulted at the earliest stage possible. • Indigenous peoples need to be invited to participate in impact assessment teams. • Independent Indigenous committees to monitor implementation of mitigation measures. • Accountability, enforcement and grievance mechanisms need to be improved.« less