The dog days of summer have arrived in Washington. August is typically a time when the city pays more attention to how the Washington Nationals are doing (not well), whether afternoon thunderstorms will affect rush hour traffic (a lot), and which beach the family should head to in order to escape the heat (Bethany Beach in Delaware is this blogger’s favorite.)

With Congress out of session until after Labor Day and President Biden also decamped to one of those Delaware beaches, the federal government shifts into a lower gear than usual. And with a presidential campaign looming (not to mention the unprecedented third indictment of a former President in the books), political and policy junkies are less focused on Capitol Hill and the White House than normal.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Even at a slower pace, federal policymaking continues to grind forward. A few highlights:

More NEPA Changes on the Horizon. The Biden administration has released a proposed rule to finish undoing changes the previous administration made to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to align it with recent changes approved by Congress.

The proposal comes a year after CEQ finalized regulations to undo part of the 2020 NEPA reforms instituted under the Trump administration that exempted classes of federal actions from NEPA review and restricted the types of project effects to be examined during the NEPA review process. And they come a few months after Congress approved, and President Biden signed into law, changes to NEPA as part of the deal to avoid a government default. Those changes, which included limiting Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to 150 pages and Environmental Assessments (EA) to 75 pages, are reflected in the new proposed rule.

Among other changes to NEPA, the proposed rule restores provisions removed in 2020 and adds new provisions to ensure that the impacts of proposed projects on historic and cultural resources are considered. For example, the proposed rule would add to the factors agencies need to consider when determining the appropriate level of NEPA review “the degree to which the proposed action may adversely affect unique characteristics of the geographic area such as historic or cultural resources, Tribal sacred sites, parkland, and various types of ecologically sensitive areas.” In addition, the proposed rule would remove language from the 2020 reforms that could have limited agencies from gathering more update information to analyze the effects of proposed actions, noting that “in the context of analyzing historical, cultural, or biological effects, survey work is often revisited and reassessed periodically, and an agency should not be required to rely on outdated data.”

The proposed rule is open for public comment through Friday, September 29, 2023. The ACRA Government Relations Committee is reviewing the proposed rules. If you have comments you would like to share with the Committee to inform ACRA’s comments back to CEQ, please send them to

Biden Moves to Protect Grand Canyon

President Biden signed a proclamation last week designating a new national monument near the Grand Canyon National Park. The move provides stronger protection for nearly 1 million acres and permanently removes them from consideration for future uranium mining.

Using his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act, Biden established the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. The site, which totals more than 917,000 acres, includes lands of ancestral importance to a dozen tribes, as well as multiple cultural and archaeological sites.

According to the White House, the establishment of the monument will not impact private property rights or existing permits for livestock grazing. It will also maintain access for hunting and fishing, and existing mining claims, which predate a 20-year mineral withdrawal moratorium initiated in 2012, will remain in effect.

Get in the Know at the 2023 ACRA Conference

With so many policy developments that impact CRM, the 2023 ACRA Conference is a great place to get the latest scoop.

In addition to updates on what’s happening in Washington, the conference will feature a discussion with Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Chair Sara Bronin on her plans for the ACHP, not to mention session topics on strategic planning for CRM, the roles of geophysical archaeology in the industry, CRM in the age of artificial intelligence, and much more.

Don’t miss out on the premier CRM event of the year – register now!