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TULARE COUNTY v. BUSH

September 28, 2001

TULARE COUNTY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
GEORGE W. BUSH ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.

    MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 15, 2000, pursuant to the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Clinton issued a proclamation establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument ("the Monument"). Proclamation Number 7295 ("the Proclamation") declared that the Monument would encompass 327,769 acres of land in the Sequoia National Forest in southern central California. According to the Antiquities Act, the President may, "in his discretion," designate federal land as a national Monument when it includes "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." See 16 U.S.C. § 431.

The plaintiffs in this action are various individuals and groups that have interests in the use of the Sequoia National Forest land within the boundaries of the Monument. The plaintiffs filed this action against the defendants, President Clinton and various other entities of the United States government, seeking declaratory relief. The plaintiffs allege that the Proclamation and the Forest Service's current implementation of the Proclamation violate the Antiquities Act, the National Forest Management Act ("NFMA"), 16 U.S.C. § 1600 et seq., the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., the plaintiffs' rights, and the Property Clause of the Constitution, U.S. CONST. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2. This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, alternatively, for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 15, 2000, President Clinton issued a proclamation establishing the Giant Sequoia National Monument pursuant to the Antiquities Act of 1906. See 16 U.S.C. § 431; 65 Fed. Reg. 24095 (2000). The Proclamation states that the Monument encompasses "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected," 327,769 acres of land located within the Sequoia National Forest in southern central California. See 65 Fed. Reg. at 24097. The Proclamation reserves this land for the purpose of protecting a variety of objects of historic and scientific interest such as: "rich and varied landscape," "magnificent groves of towering giant sequoias, gigantic domes," and "archeological sites recording Native American occupation and adaptations." See 65 Fed. Reg. at 24095-24097. According to the Proclamation, "the monument is rich in rare plants and is home to more than 200 plant species endemic to the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range . . . ." See id.

Regarding the use of land included in the Monument, the Proclamation provides for "continued public and recreational access and use consistent with the purposes of the monument." See id. at 24097. The Proclamation states that "[t]he establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights." See id. at 24097. The Proclamation also provides for the continuing existence of timber sales under contract on the date of the Proclamation and states that the Proclamation will not affect existing special use authorizations. See id. at 24097-98. As to the management of the Monument, the Forest Service shall manage the Monument, "pursuant to applicable legal authorities, to implement the purposes and provisions of this proclamation." Id. at 24097. Finally, the Proclamation gives the Secretary of Agriculture three years from the date of the Proclamation to develop an official management plan for the Monument. See id.

Tulare County, one of the plaintiffs, is a county in the State of California that holds land near and within the Monument. See Compl. ¶ 12. Other plaintiffs include Sierra Forest Products, High Desert Multiple-Use Coalition, Kent Duysen, Sierra Nevada Access Multiple-Use & Stewardship Coalition, Sugarloafers Snowmobile Association, Montecito-Sequoia Camp, and Navelencia Resource Conservation District. See Compl. ¶¶ 12-77. Generally speaking, the plaintiffs use the Monument area for business and recreational purposes. See id.

Two of the plaintiffs, Sierra Forest Products and High Desert Multiple-Use Coalition were involved in an administrative appeal of the Land and Resource Plan, the Forest Service's management plan for the Sequoia National Forest. See Compl. ¶¶ 87-89; Pls.' Opp'n at 39. The Forest Service adopted this Land and Resource Plan in 1988 to preserve old-growth Giant Sequoias. See Compl. ¶ 87. In 1990, these plaintiffs, other appellants of the management plan, and the Forest Service entered into a Mediated Settlement Agreement ("MSA") with the Forest Service. See Compl. ¶ 89.

On October 25, 2000, the plaintiffs, seeking declaratory relief, filed a complaint, alleging nine claims: (1) the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act because the alleged objects of historic and scientific interest have not been identified with reasonable specificity; (2) the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act because it designates non-qualifying objects as the basis for the Monument; (3) the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act because the size of the Monument is not confined to the smallest area compatible; (4) the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act because it increases the likelihood of harm to any objects of alleged historic and scientific interest within the Monument; (5) the Proclamation violates the Property Clause of the Constitution; (6) the Proclamation violates the NFMA by withdrawing land from the National Forest System; (7) the current management by the Forest Service of the Monument is in violation of the NFMA and its forest planning regulations; (8) the current management of the Monument is in violation of the NEPA; and (9) the Proclamation violates valid existing rights, including those contained in the Mediated Settlement Agreement. See Compl. ¶¶ 131-204.

The plaintiffs allege that the Monument is physically over-inclusive. See Pls.' Opp'n at 1. According to the plaintiffs, the "Giant Sequoia groves constitute only about 20,000 acres or 6% of Monument area." See id. Also, the plaintiffs charge that the Forest Service's current management of the Monument area significantly decreases timber sales, recreational uses, and rights of access to the Monument. See Compl. ¶¶ 108-14.

On March 23, 2001, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss under both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), lack of jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Mot. to Dismiss") at 1.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the court must accept all the complaint's well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See, e.g., Pitney Bowes v. United States Postal Serv., 27 F. Supp.2d 15, 19 (D.D.C. 1998) (Urbina, J.). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. See District of Columbia Retirement Rd. v. United States, 657 F. Supp. 428, 431 (D.D.C. 1987). In evaluating whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, the court must accept all uncontroverted, well-pleaded facts as true and attribute all reasonable inferences to the plaintiffs. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974), overturned on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). The Court is not required, however, to accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations. See, e.g., Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990).

Moreover, the court need not limit itself to the allegations of the complaint. See Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C.Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds by 482 U.S. 64, 107 S.Ct. 2246, 96 L.Ed.2d 51 (1987). Rather, the court may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to determine whether it has jurisdiction in the case. See Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C.Cir. 1992).

For a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, it need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim and the grounds on which it rests. See FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests not whether the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, but instead whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6); Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683. The plaintiff need not plead the elements of a primafacie case in the complaint. See Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1114 (D.C.Cir. 2000). Thus, the court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Atchinson v. District of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 422 (D.C.Cir. 1996). Moreover, the court should draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Clinton, 880 F. Supp. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 1995).

B. The Court Dismisses Counts One Through Four Because the Proclamation Does Not Violate the Antiquities Act

In Counts One through Four, the plaintiffs allege that the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act in various ways. See Compl. ¶¶ 131-60. Reviewing the Proclamation on its face, this court determines that there is no set of facts on which the plaintiffs could demonstrate that the Proclamation violates the Antiquities Act. Consequently, the court dismisses Counts One through Four pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

1. The Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act authorizes the President of the United States:

in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks . . . and other objects of historic and scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the ...

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