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Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making

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The National Research Council established the Panel on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making at the request of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with additional support from the U.S. Forest Service, to assess whether, and under what conditions, public participation achieves the outcomes desired.

The term “public participation,” as used in this study, includes organized processes adopted by elected officials, government agencies, or other public- or private-sector organizations to engage the public in environmental assessment, planning, decision making, management, monitoring, and evaluation. These processes supplement traditional forms of public
participation (voting, forming interest groups, demonstrating, lobbying) by directly involving the public in executive functions that, when they are conducted in government, are traditionally delegated to administrative agencies. The goal of participation is to improve the quality, legitimacy, and capacity of environmental assessments and decisions.