Before you write a comment letter, make sure you’ve gathered the information you need. Your preliminary research will help you develop the list of concerns that will be the foundation of your letter.  

Start by checking what stage of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) the project is in, the due dates for comments, and if the comment period has already begun. Comments submitted after the public comment period has closed will not be responded to, but if the project has not yet been approved, submitting comment letters even after the comment deadline does give you legal standing to sue on the project. (See Navigating the EIR and Public Review Periods for more.)

You’ll want to start your research as early as possible, since the comment period is usually only 30 days. Gathering information and conducting the plant search are good examples of what can be done ahead of time. Once you have this information, you’re ready to begin your draft.

1. Form a list of concerns 

Your list can help guide the process of writing the letter and help form your goals for engaging with this project. Start with what you know.  

  • Why are you interested in this project in the first place?  
  • Did something capture your interest about this specific project? 
  • Do you have experience with the project site’s land or this type of land? 
  • If so, what is special about it?  
  • What do you know about the agency or about how they implement projects? 
  • What is at stake if the project goes forward? (e.g., loss of habitat, loss of a species, etc.) 

Then reach out to your network to learn more about the land and the project. 

  • Are there local CNPS members that can tell you more about the project site?
  • What can they tell you about the project site, the type of land that exists there, the plants that are there or should be there? 
  • Do you have any contacts in the agency you can reach out to for information? 
  • You can use this to ask for a site visit, ask for a timeline, and ask for other information you may need. 

By answering these questions, you can begin forming a list of concerns. More specific concerns will come from a plant search and a thorough look into the EIR, but this is a great way to start preparing for the comment letter.  

2. Conduct a plant search 

The plant search is critical to understand what plants are present–or should be present–o the proposed site. Your search will require you to use both online resources and your local network. You may already have some of this information from your prior knowledge, but it is still a good idea to have a thorough plant list prepared. (See Plant Searches in this toolkit for more.)

3. Know the law

Check the Regulatory Setting or Regulatory Framework sections of the EIR to see which laws, regulations, policies, or ordinances were considered in the analysis. These sections are normally nested under each resource considered (e.g., laws relating to Biological Resources will be found in the Biological Resources section). Learn more about other state laws protecting native plants on the CDFW California Laws Protecting Native Plants page. Check if the region has any additional local laws, protection, or conservation plans, such as Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) or Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCP) that must be followed. Any laws, regulations, policies, or ordinances that were not considered in the EIR should be raised in the comments. It’s also helpful and important to include suggested alternatives to avoid violations, along with additional mitigation measures to satisfy a regulation.