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Rural Development

Housing & Community Facilities Programs


Environmental Policies and Procedures   Environmental Responsibilities of USDA Rural Development
Applicant and Lender Responsibilities   Protected Environmental Resources
Public Involvement   Environmental Documents
To Obtain Technical Help   For More Information


Environmental Policies and Procedures      

In pursuit of its mission to improve the economy and living conditions of rural America, USDA's Rural Development mission area will support only those actions which help maintain a clean, healthy environment.  It will provide technical and financial assistance in ways that promote the general welfare of rural people by creating and maintaining conditions under which man and nature can co-exist in productive harmony while fulfilling the social and economic requirements of present and future generations of Americans.  Without a clean environment, there can be no true quality of life in rural America.  


Environmental Responsibilities of USDA Rural Development  

USDA Rural Development has established written policies and procedures designed to ensure that its rural housing, business/cooperative, community development and utility programs comply with the environmental requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as other environmental statutes, Executive Orders and USDA regulations.   Rural Development program goals are developed and advanced in a manner that will protect, enhance, and restore the environment.  Environmental quality is given equal consideration with economic, social, and other relevant factors in program development and decision making processes.

Before Rural Development can agree to provide financial assistance for a special project, it must consider the environmental impacts of the proposed action and ensure that steps are taken to avoid or mitigate any adverse environmental impacts.  This analysis of environmental impacts is accomplished through consultation with applicants and borrowers; other Federal, State and local agencies.  Indian tribes; and interested public parties.

An environmental review document is prepared.  The extent of analysis and level of detail reflected in the environmental review will depend on the size and complexity of the proposal and the scope and intensity of the expected environmental impacts.  The environmental review is used as a management tool in the planning process to help Rural Development and the applicant or borrower to make better decisions based on an understanding of the environmental consequences of the proposal, and to take actions which avoid or minimize environmental impacts. 


Applicant and Lender Responsibilities
Rural Development expects applicants (and in the case of guaranteed loans, lenders and the lender's clients) to consider the potential environmental impacts of their proposal at the earliest planning stages and to develop proposals that minimize adverse environmental impacts.  Prospective applicants and lenders should contact their closest USDA Rural Development field office to identify environmental requirements as soon as possible after the decision to pursue funding has been made.  Applicants and lenders will be required to assist Rural Development to evaluate the proposal's potential environmental impacts and may be requested to publish public notices to inform and involve the public in the environmental impact analysis, to assist in the investigation of project alternatives, and implement measures to mitigate or minimize potential adverse impacts.


Protected Environmental Resources
Some of the environmental resources that deserve special consideration in the applicant's planning process and that will be examined by Rural Development through its environmental review process are:

  • Coastal barrier resources
  • Prime range lands
  • Coastal zone management areas
  • National landmarks
  • Endangered/threatened species or critical habitat
  • Sole source aquifer recharge areas
  • Floodplains
  • Water
  • Historic and archaeological sites
  • Wild and scenic rivers
  • Important farmland
  • Wilderness areas
  • Prime forest lands
  • Wetlands


Public Involvement
The National Environmental Policy Act encourages participation of Federal and State Agencies and any interested or affected citizens and organizations in the environmental review process.  Rural Development environmental regulations require that interested parties be able to obtain information on the status of environmental reviews of all projects and that they have the opportunity to comment on the potential environmental impacts of specific projects.  The regulations also ensure that interested parties have access to environmental documents supporting Rural Development decisions.


To Obtain Technical Help
USDA Rural Development field office staff will help applicants and borrowers integrate environmental considerations into the planning and design of their project proposals as early in the planning process as possible.  If appropriate, Rural Development staff will recommend alternative actions, including mitigation measures, that can be taken to minimize adverse impacts.


For More Information
Contact the environmental coordinator at your USDA Rural Development State Office, listed in "U.S. Government" section of the blue pages under "Agriculture, Department of" in most telephone directories.

Additionally, each State has a Natural Resource Management Guide available to the public through any USDA Rural Development office.   To the extent practicable, this guide identifies within the State the natural resources, land uses, and other environmental issues which are regulated by Federal, State, or local authorities and which must be considered in all planning and design proposals.  The guide also provides a summary of the various standards or types of protection that have been established and a list of appropriate contacts for further information.  This guide is a good reference document for applicants, borrowers, and lenders, particularly those who may be considering proposals which have the potential for effecting important environmental resources.