National Wildlife Federation v. U.S., 78-1976

Decision Date11 February 1980
Docket NumberNo. 78-1976,78-1976
Parties, 10 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,172 NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, Appellant, v. The UNITED STATES of America, et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Peter C. Kirby for appellant.

Anne S. Almy, Atty., Dept. of Justice, with whom James W. Moorman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Earl J. Silbert, * U. S. Atty., Cameron M. Blake, Asst. U. S. Atty., Robert L. Klarquist and James T. Draude, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellees.

Before McGOWAN and LEVENTHAL, ** Circuit Judges, and PENN, *** United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge McGOWAN.

McGOWAN, Circuit Judge:

This appeal is from the District Court's dismissal of a suit requesting declaratory relief and mandamus 1 against the President of the United States and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. At issue is the adequacy vel non of certain disclosures and explanations accompanying the President's proposed fiscal 1979 budget in light of section 8(b) of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1606(b) (1976). For the reasons set forth below, we think the District Court properly declined to provide the relief sought. We therefore affirm.

I THE STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, Pub.L.No. 93-378, 88 Stat. 476, as amended (the Act), requires the President and the administration to develop what is, in effect, a master plan for the management and use of forests and rangelands. See 16 U.S.C. §§ 1601-06 (1976). The master plan is highly multifarious. Its components include a "Renewable Resource Assessment," id. § 1601, a "Renewable Resource Program," id. § 1602, a system of "annual reports," id. §§ 1606(c), 1601(d), 1602(e), a presidential "Statement of Policy," id. § 1606, and various presidential "budget statements," id. To understand the gravamen of this lawsuit, it is necessary to describe in some detail the purposes and elements of each component of the master plan.

A. The "Renewable Resource Assessment"

The Act requires that a "Renewable Resource Assessment" (the Assessment) be prepared by the Secretary of Agriculture. The first Assessment was prepared in 1976. The Assessment is to be updated in 1979, and every tenth year thereafter. Id. § 1601(a). The Assessment, inter alia, must:

(1) analyze the present and anticipated uses and demand for, and supply of, renewable resources, id. § 1601(a)(1);

(2) inventory renewable resources and evaluate the ways of, and costs associated with, increasing the "yield of tangible and intangible goods and services" from these resources, id. §§ 1601(a)(2), 1601(b)(1), 1603, taking into account the possible application of new technology, id. § 1601(b)(3);

(3) describe Forest Service programs, id. § 1601(a)(3);

(4) discuss any factors that would alter existing patterns of use or management of forests and rangelands, id. § 1601(a)(4); and

(5) report on the prospects for increased conservation by recycling wood wastes, id. § 1601(b)(2).

B. The "Renewable Resource Program"

The Act also requires the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare and submit to the President a "Renewable Resource Program" (the Program) for the protection, management and development of the National Forest System. The first Program was due in 1975; the Secretary must update it every five years. Specifically, the Program must discuss, inter alia :

(1) developing forest roads and trails, id. § 1602;

(2) Forest Service programs and their goals, id. §§ 1602, 1602(5)(A);

(3) appropriate areas of research, id. § 1602;

(4) desirable public and private investments, id. § 1602(1);

(5) priorities for accomplishing goals, id. § 1602(3);

(6) probable personnel requirements, id. § 1602(4); and

(7) the impact of timber export and import on supplies and prices, id. § 1602(5)(E).

As part of the Renewable Resource Program, the Secretary of Agriculture also must develop "land management plans" for each area in the National Forest System. These plans must, inter alia, specify the amount and manner in which timber may be cut. Id. § 1604.

C. The Annual Reports

In addition to the Assessment and the Program, the Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue several varieties of annual reports. One annual report must:

(1) describe the status and findings of major research projects, id. § 1606(c); and

(2) discuss in "quantitative and qualitative terms" the "progress in implementing the Program . . . together with accomplishments of the Program as they relate to the objectives of the Assessment" taking into account the "balance between economic factors and environmental quality factors." Id. § 1606(d).

This report must be written "in concise summary form." Id. § 1606(f).

The Act requires that a second variety of annual report be prepared by the Secretary of Agriculture. This report must describe the amount and location of National Forest system land that needs reforestation, id. § 1601(d)(1), and the approximate amount of money required each year systematically to replant this land, id. § 1601(d)(2). See also id. § 1607.

A third required annual report must discuss the benefits and possible harms of using various herbicides and pesticides in the National Forest System. Id. § 1601(e).

D. The "Statement of Policy"

In addition to these various documents and reports, the President is required to submit a "Statement of Policy" to Congress "to be used in framing budget requests by that Administration for Forest Service activities." Id. § 1606(a). The Statement of Policy must accompany each revision of the Assessment and the Program. Id. The Statement of Policy apparently is intended to reflect the administration's future plans for Forest Service programs and activities in light of the Assessment and the Program. Either House of Congress may disapprove the Statement of Policy within 90 days of its issuance. Congress also may modify the statement by conventional legislation. Id.

E. The Budget Statements

The final document required by the Act is designed to tie together the numerous reports and studies described above. Each year the President is required to submit, with the Forest Service budget request, a statement "express(ing) in qualitative and quantitative terms the extent to which the programs and policies projected under the budget meet the policies approved by the Congress." 2 Should the proposed budget fail to meet these policies, the Act states that the President "shall specifically set forth the reason or reasons for requesting the Congress to approve the lesser programs or policies presented" (the Statement of Reasons). Id. § 1606(b).

II THE RESPONSE OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH TO THE ACT

President Ford on March 2, 1976, transmitted to Congress the Statement of Policy required by the Act. The Statement of Policy revealed the intention, subject to other budget constraints, to propose Forest Service budgets adequate to fulfill the recommendations of the Program. Congress neither disapproved nor modified this Statement of Policy.

We have seen that the Act requires the President, in submitting the proposed annual budget, (1) to "express in qualitative and quantitative terms" the extent to which the proposed budget is consistent with the Statement of Policy, and (2) to "set forth the reason or reasons for requesting the Congress to approve the lesser programs or policies presented" in the budget. 16 U.S.C. § 1606(b). These requirements underlie this lawsuit.

A. The Fiscal 1979 Budget Process

President Carter submitted the proposed fiscal 1979 budget to Congress on January 20, 1978. The President proposed a.$1.8 billion budget for the Forest Service. A budget that included all the money envisioned by the Program would have totalled about $2.4 billion. The budget report noted, correctly, that "the proposed budget for the Forest Service is considerably less than that suggested by the reports prepared pursuant to the Resources Planning Act." 3 The Forest Service the same day transmitted to Congress a document entitled Ex planatory Notes, which stated, in pertinent part:

The President's goal is to balance the Federal budget by 1981 and to hold Federal employment to minimum levels. To meet this goal, decisions must be made now which identify programs which are not of the highest priority and which propose the necessary action to reduce and/or eliminate these programs. The Forest Service operates a large and aggressive program including the Young Adult Conservation Corps and Job Corps programs, and will accomplish the highest priority work within these capabilities and fiscal policy. The fiscal year 1979 budget reflects this effort, and while the budget is somewhat less than fiscal year 1978, it is considerably more than fiscal year 1977.

Explanatory Notes at 7.

House and Senate appropriations subcommittees held hearings on the proposed Forest Service budget during March and April, 1978. At the hearings, subcommittee members asked for, and obtained, figures disclosing the differences between the budget requests and the amounts needed fully to achieve the goals of the Program. See Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1979: Hearings Before a Subcomm. of the Senate Comm. on Appropriations, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. passim (1978); Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1979: Hearings Before a Subcomm. of the House Comm. on Appropriations, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. passim (1978) (hereinafter cited as House Hearings ). Various legislators criticized the proposed budget as excessively penurious in light of the Program's recommendations. At no time during the hearings, however, did a legislator or witness assert that the President had failed to comply with section 1606(b) in any respect.

The National Wildlife Federation on April...

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