BLM. This deterioration has continued while the federal defendants have failed to meet every deadline thus far imposed by this court's Final Judgment of June 18, 1975.
On January 13, 1978 the court held an evidentiary hearing on the federal defendants' proposed deviation. After that hearing the parties submitted memoranda summarizing the evidence and the legal issues, as well as proposed orders. The thrust of the federal defendants' argument in support of its proposed deviation is that the existing schedule is unreasonable and unworkable because existing resource data concerning the lands is insufficient and additional time is necessary to gather new information. Furthermore, the federal defendants assert that cost and time considerations necessitate the requested modifications. Plaintiffs' position, to briefly summarize, is that the existing schedule, which was an agreement drafted by the parties and entered by this court with their consent, was a reasonable compromise and can be met with less drastic revisions than those proposed by the federal defendants. Plaintiffs contend that the reasons advanced by the BLM for the requested delay are insufficient, that the delays up to this point are the result of mismanagement by the BLM in preparation of the EIS's, and that even assuming that additional data and planning are necessary, the EIS's could be prepared more rapidly than proposed.
BLM argues that federal agencies, not courts or plaintiffs in environmental lawsuits, are responsible for deciding the timing of the preparation of EIS's. This argument, however, neglects the fact that preparation of these statements was ordered by this court and the schedule negotiated by the parties was entered as a final judgment in a civil action. This is not a matter of first impression before the court on review of an administrative determination. The defendants are seeking to modify a final judgment of this court.
In regard to the reasonableness of the existing schedule, two factors are crucial to any determination made by this court. First, in 1974 this court found that "it is clear that the BLM has delayed beyond reason" in the preparation of EIS's. 388 F. Supp. at 836. Second, as was indicated above, due to BLM's failures, the public lands are continuing to deteriorate. Despite these findings, the BLM now seeks to totally reorganize the EIS preparation schedule and reduce, by approximately one-half, the amount of acreage to be covered by EIS's to be completed by the end of FY 1981.
In support of their proposed schedule, the federal defendants assert that the additional time is necessary in order to integrate the preparation of livestock grazing EIS's into the BLM land use planning process and to collect additional resource information. To the extent that the failure to grant defendants' request will interfere with BLM's long-term, land use planning process, the interference must be balanced against the need for BLM to act quickly to abate the deterioration of the rangelands. As to the data deficiency issue, it is not clear that additional time is necessary for the collection of resource information. Plaintiffs persuasively suggest that effective EIS's can be prepared based on existing data and to the extent necessary, additional data can be collected and the statements prepared in less time than that requested by the BLM.
The BLM also asserts that it lacks the time, money, and manpower to meet the existing schedule. Plaintiffs have shown, however, that despite the fact that the BLM has expended substantial sums of money and manpower up to now, there has been "an outstanding want of coordination and lack of progress toward completion of the required FY 77 EIS's." Plaintiffs' Summary of the Evidence, at 7-9. Furthermore, this court noted in 1974 that:
The court is aware that, like many agencies, the BLM has been given large scale tasks to be accomplished with limited manpower. That does not mean, however, that the agency may ignore or pay mere lip service to the NEPA requirements.