California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Negative Declaration

(or Mitigated Negative Declaration)

A Negative Declaration shall be prepared for a project which the Department determines from an Initial Study will not have a significant effect. Or, a Mitigated Negative Declaration shall be prepared if the Initial Study identified potentially significant effects, but revisions in the project or mitigation measures to avoid or reduce the effects to a point where no significant effects would occur are agreed to by the Department before the negative declaration and initial study are released for public review (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15070).

While preparing a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration, the Department shall consult internally and with all public agencies which have discretionary approval over the project. This informal consultation shall be accomplished by the lead unit with other appropriate Department units and State, Federal, and local agencies (CEQA Guidelines, Section15381).

The Negative Declaration is a document which consists of a brief project description, the location of the project, a description of mitigation measures (if any) included in the project to avoid potentially significant effects, an Initial Study, and a formal finding stating that the project will not have a significant adverse effect (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15071). If the Initial Study leads to the finding that a significant adverse effect may occur, then an EIR must be prepared.

Initial Study

The Initial Study facilitates: (1) identification of environmental impacts; (2) an assessment of environmental impact early in project design; (3) project modifications to avoid or mitigate adverse impacts; and (4) factual documentation for a finding, if appropriate, that the project will not have a significant adverse effect on the environment (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15063).

The Guidelines do not specify the precise format for our Initial Study. However, the Initial Study must contain the following specific elements in written form: (1) a description of the project, including its location; (2) the environmental setting; (3) environmental effects by use of a check list, (4) a commitment to mitigate adverse effects, if any, to insignificance; (5) an examination of whether the project is compatible with existing zoning and plans; and (6) the name of the person or persons who prepared or participated in the Initial Study (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15063(d) and Appendix G).

Maps, photos, drawings, or explanatory material should be attached to provide a better understanding of the project. The Initial Study must be in sufficient detail to describe adequately the probable effect of the project on the affected area.

Examples of projects for which Negative Declarations have been prepared are: various wildlife area management plans, Battle Creek Wildlife Area Wetland Development, Knights Ferry Gravel Replenishment, Mad River Hatchery Weir Replacement, San Emigdio Canyon Tule Elk Reintroduction, Bear Creek Meadow Restoration for Thousand Springs Ranch, and Carlsbad Artificial Ocean Reef.

Procedures for Negative Declarations

During the Initial Study, the lead unit for the Department project should consult informally with Branches, Divisions, and Regions as appropriate. HCPB should be contacted for assistance regarding questions of procedure and policy. The CESA internal consultation should take place at this point if it has not already begun. See CESA Coordination in section 1178.6.

When early consultation and the negative declaration are completed, they are sent to the Regional Manager (or Branch Chief for Headquarters Projects) for approval and signature. Once the negative declaration is signed, the lead unit prepares 17 copies for transmittal to the State Clearinghouse (SCH) and additional copies for other involved units of the Department. The lead unit files 15 copies of the proposed Negative Declaration with the SCH to provide an opportunity for Federal, State, and local agencies, and members of the public to respond to the findings. The public review period shall be at least 30 days to provide interested parties with sufficient time to respond to the proposed finding before the Negative Declaration is approved (CEQA Guidelines, Sections15072-15073). The lead unit has the two additional copies date-stamped by the SCH. One stamped copy is delivered to HCPB, and the Region (or Headquarters unit) keeps the other stamped copy for the record.

Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration

The lead unit is responsible for providing public notice that a proposed Negative Declaration has been prepared and is out for public review (PRC, Section 21092). Contents of the notice are specified in CEQA Guidelines, Section 15072(f). All organizations and individuals who have previously requested such notice shall be notified of the proposed Negative Declaration, and notice shall also be given by at least one of the following procedures:

  • Publication at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the area affected by the proposed project
  • Posting of the notice on and off-site in the area where the project is to be located.
  • Direct mailing to owners of property contiguous to the project.

Any public or private parties who may be affected by the project should be notified. At the end of the 30-day public review period, prior to approving the project, the Department shall consider the proposed Negative Declaration together with any comments received during the public review process and shall adopt the Negative Declaration (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15074).

Notice of Determination

After deciding to carry out or approve a project, the Department files a Notice of Determination with SCH. The filing of the Notice of Determination with SCH starts a 30-day statute of limitations on court challenges to approval under CEQA (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15075). At the time of filing, the lead unit must have a copy of the Notice of Determination, the proposed Negative Declaration, and all comments with the Department's responses, on file and available to the public.

Email Link Contact CEQA Program – CDFW staff cannot make decisions or intercede on CEQA projects under the jurisdiction of another lead agency. Please address project-specific comments to the project's lead agency.