Introduction to Public Participation

Public participation provides you with an opportunity to make your voice heard in environmental decisions that may affect you, your community, and your livelihood. There are many different ways for people to participate in environmental decision-making at local, regional, and national levels. These include providing written or verbal comments on proposed environmental decisions and attending local meetings and speaking to government officials.

  • Public participation through the submission of public comments can strengthen an environmental decision by providing diverse perspectives and new information about the planned action or its potential impacts.
  • Other forms of participation, such as meeting with decision-makers, can raise awareness about a particular environmental action and encourage others to get involved.

What is a Public Comment?

      Public commenting in Mississippi (Photo Credit: NOAA)

When government entities decide to undertake major actions that may have far-reaching effects on individuals, communities, economies, and ecosystems, they typically must solicit public comments on the proposed action. The action may range from a physical construction project to a restoration planning process. Comment periods provide an opportunity for members of the public to provide input, share experiences, and propose specific changes.

  • Written comments are essentially a letter to the decision-maker that explains your opinions about the decision (e.g., if it should be changed).
  • Verbal comments are oral remarks provided at a public meeting that explain your opinions about the decision.

Participating as a Community

You may have a louder voice, and have an easier time, if your community works together to participate in a process. Often a decision that affects you will also affect others in your community.

Community Organizing


View our fact sheets on submitting written and verbal comments for more information about public commenting:

Written Comment ImageVerbal Comment Image

For even more information, view these detailed legal resources and public participation guides on the web and in print:

View our legal disclaimer.