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Grant Administration – Environmental Review

Last time we talked about the grant agreement which covers requirements that go along with most government related grants be they federal, state, or more localized. An Environmental Review is somewhat like that, but only with federal grants and with a much more narrow scope. The federal government wants to know whether a particular project will have an adverse impact upon the social, physical, or natural environment. Let’s discuss what each of those categories entail in a bit more detail.

The social environment refers to quality-of-life issues which affect human society. An example of this might be a housing project which will displace low-and-moderate income families. Although the project would not be funded without including money for adequate compensation for these properties, the residents to be displaced will still experience an upheaval in their lives. They will be forced to leave familiar neighborhoods with familiar faces and all that that implies. The idea of “home” is more than just a physical one. To the credit of the federal government, this type of issue is taken into account in environmental reviews. Many novice grant writers are surprised that this factor would be part of the equation in this type of review, as most people automatically think of the “environment” as being strictly natural resources, such as rivers, lakes, streams, forests, and mountains.

The physical environment refers to man-made structures. As an example, Form RD 1940-20 (Request for Environmental Information), used by the United States Department of Agriculture, asks whether a particular project will have an impact on the following man-made facilities: industrial, commercial, residential, agricultural, grazing land, mining, recreational facilities, transportation, parks, hospitals, schools, historical sites, and solid waste management.

The third type of environment, the natural environment, refers to features of geography and wildlife that most of us think of as comprising “nature”. Form RD 1940-20 separates these into categories as follows: forests, aquifer recharge area, steep slopes, wildlife refuge, shoreline, beaches, dunes, estuary, wetlands, floodplain, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, critical habitat, wildlife, air quality, energy supplies, and coastal barrier resources systems. The federal government offers guidance as to exactly how each term is defined. This guidance is intended to assist the applicant in deciding whether a particular natural structure fits the federal definition.

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