Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Hodel
624 F.Supp. 1045 (1985), aff'd 819 F.2d 927 (9th Cir. 1987)
The Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) divided Federal lands into Planning Areas. Each Planning Area was
further divided into allotments for which the BLM could issue a grazing
The BLM created a
comprehensive gazing management plan for each Planning Area. It included
a Management Framework Plan (MFP) and an Environmental Impact Statement
BLM felt that they did not
have enough data to determine exactly how much grazing to allow, so they
decided to not to adjust the amount of grazing permits until reliable
data was available.
The data did show that
there was definitely overgrazing, so in essence, BLM was going to allow
continuing overgrazing until they could figure out exactly how much
grazing would be sustainable.
Environmental groups, led by NRDC,
sued for an injunction to stop the MFP for the Reno Planning Area.
NRDC argued that the MFP was
in conflict with various Statutes, and that it was arbitrary and
Specifically the Taylor
Grazing Act (TGA), Public Rangelands Improvement
Act (PRIA), and Federal Land Policy and
Management Act (FLPMA).
NRDC argued that the MFP
allowed overgrazing, and that was against the intention of TGA, PRIA, and FLPMA.
The Trial Court found for the
BLM. NRDC appealed.
The Trial Court agreed that
there was evidence of overgrazing, but that it couldn't be conclusively
determined to be from BLM's grazing permits.
The Court found that
Congress had only put broad, discretionary language into TGA, PRIA, and FLPMA, and
it would be difficult for a court to determine Agency compliance.
The Court found that they
should apply the Chevron Doctrine
and defer to Agency expertise.
See Chevron U.S.A. Inc.
v. Natural Resources Defense Council
(467 U.S. 837 (1984)).
The Court noted that you
could argue that BLM's plan to postpone adjusting the number of livestock
grazing permits was less than ideal, but it was good enough that they
couldn't be said to be arbitrary and capricious.
The Court did not even order
the BLM to do any data collection so that they might be able to come to a
better decision in the future!
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that BLMs actions were not arbitrary and capricious.
The Court found that there
wasn't conclusive evidence of overgrazing, and the BLM didn't have
sufficient data to make any decisions, so they should be allowed to
continue the status quo.
This case represents the
apogee of judicial deference to BLM's decision-making process.