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National Historic Preservation Act, including Tribal Consultation

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and its implementing regulations require federal agencies to consult with tribes and to consider the effects on historic properties for projects they carry out, assist, fund, permit, license, or approve throughout the country.

The BLM considers tribal consultation to be an open-ended and ongoing process. While preparing the 2012 Solar PEIS, the BLM consulted and engaged with tribes, as described under Tribal Communication Summary below.

If a federal or federally-assisted project has the potential to affect historic properties, a Section 106 review will take place. To accomplish this, Federal agencies must:

  • Identify who should participate in the review (such as State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, local government, interested federally recognized Indian tribes, historic preservation organization, and others).
  • Identify historic properties that could be affected.
  • Assess the effects of the project on historic properties.
  • Explore measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic properties and reach agreement with the State (or Tribal) Historic Preservation Officer (and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation [ACHP] in some cases) on measures to resolve them.

Programmatic NHPA Consultation Completed for the 2012 Solar PEIS

In preparing a Programmatic Agreement (PA) to govern Section 106 compliance procedures for future solar undertakings, the BLM consulted with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the state historic preservation officers(SHPOs) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah; the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NHTP); and Indian tribes with historical and cultural ties to the solar energy zones (SEZs) and/or variance areas. Detailed feedback provided by the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Big Pine Paiute Tribe resulted in additions and modifications of compliance procedures in the PA. The 2012 Solar PA, signed by the Acting BLM Director, the SHPOs, the NTHP, and the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, was fully executed in late September 2012.

For future solar projects in the six-state 2012 Solar PEIS area, including the SEZs, the BLM will again consult with the SHPOs, Indian tribes, other consulting parties, and the ACHP regarding inventory, eligibility, effect, treatment, and the consideration of post-review discoveries in accordance with the terms of the PA.

Sample Class II archeological surveys of SEZs within Arizona, California, and Nevada were completed in late 2012 to provide more up-to-date and complete information for those SEZs (the contract objectives for these surveys are available). These surveys will allow a projection of the density and distribution of historic properties in those SEZs and help direct development to those portions of the SEZs with the fewest conflicts with historic properties. A summary of the results of these surveys is provided on the applicable SEZ pages of this website. Pre-application meetings with solar applicants will identify the need for additional site-specific inventory data for proposed project areas. For new projects within the six-state 2012 Solar PEIS area, Indian tribes with historical or cultural ties to the SEZ or variance areas will be invited to participate and will be given the opportunity to identify traditional historic properties through consultation with the BLM and to propose additional ethnographic research.

Tribal Communication Summary

As part of the 2012 Solar PEIS process, the BLM consulted and engaged with tribes through various means in order to meet the agency's affirmative responsibilities under the NHPA, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Executive Order 13175 (“Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments”), the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and other statutes.

Beginning in June 2008, the BLM wrote to 316 tribes, chapters, and bands with a potential interest in solar energy development on BLM-administered lands in the six-state area. The BLM provided information on the Solar PEIS, invited them to be cooperating parties, and requested government-to-government consultation. Such communication continued in July 2009, October 2011, March and April 2012, and August 2012. Maps, information, Web links, Question and Answer Fact Sheets, CDs of the PEIS, and hard copies of the 2011 Supplement to the Draft Solar PEIS were provided and feedback sought.

The BLM conducted numerous face-to-face meetings with tribes throughout the 2012 PEIS process, and such consultation continues. The agency issued Instruction Memorandum WO IM 2012-032 in December 2011 and held face-to-face meetings with tribes that had provided feedback on the 2010 Draft Solar PEIS. Meetings focused on tribal comments and concerns, the content and purpose of the Supplement, the policies enumerated in the Question and Answer Fact Sheet, Section 106 procedures proposed in the Solar Programmatic Agreement (PA), and time frames for completing the PEIS. As explained above, the 2012 Solar PA was signed and executed among the BLM, the six State Historic Preservation Officers in AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, and UT, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in September 2012. The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe signed the PA as a concurring party.

Ongoing Tribal Consultation

The BLM considers tribal consultation to be an open-ended and ongoing process. For future solar energy projects on lands administered by the BLM (including projects in SEZs), field office cultural staff, in consultation with their Deputy Preservation Officer, will provide responsible BLM line officers with recommendations as to whether to collect additional archeological or ethnographic data. These recommendations will be based on dialog resulting from government-to-government consultation and the active involvement of tribes in the evaluation of individual projects in SEZs and for establishment of new SEZs. Should new ethnographic research, studies, or interviews be recommended, the BLM cultural staff, in consultation with tribal officials, will provide guidance to BLM line officers about the appropriate scope of work, provisions for safeguarding data confidentiality, and programs of mitigation.

Ethnographic Reports

As part of the development of the 2012 Solar PEIS, in 2011 the BLM completed ethnographic reports on tribal issues, concerns, and important sacred and traditional properties within nine proposed SEZs in Nevada and Utah. The tribally-approved ethnographic reports describing resources and issues of concern to tribes can be found on the Ethnographic Analyses page of the 2012 Solar PEIS Archives and are linked to through the individual SEZ pages on this website. The BLM wrote to all tribes in October 2011 to share the ethnographic reports and ask other tribes if they would identify sites of a similar nature and concern to them.