Congressional Review Act:

Application to the Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan

T-OGC-97-54: Published: Jul 9, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1997.

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GAO discussed the its views on whether the Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan is a "rule" under the provisions of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA).

GAO noted that: (1) on June 18, 1997, the Chief of the Forest Service forwarded copies of the Tongass Plan to both Houses of Congress and GAO following the procedures outlined in SBREFA, while stating at the same time that land and resource management plans are not subject to the statute; (2) a summary description of the Plan shows clearly that it meets the definition of a rule; (3) the Plan implements the requirement of the National Forest Management Act that the Secretary of Agriculture develop, maintain, and revise land resource management plans and assure compliance with the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 in setting forest management direction and harvesting levels; (4) it prescribes the manner or the policy of the Forest Service for managing the Tongass National Forest for the future, 10 to 15 years; (5) the various management prescriptions and land use designations, when read together, set out what type of activities may occur in various sections of the National Forest; (6) thus, it meets the elements of a rule: it is of general applicability (affects many parties, private and governmental, concerning the National Forest) and future effect (10 to 15 years in duration), and it implements, interprets, and prescribes law and policy; (7) SBREFA sets forth several exceptions to the definition of rules subject to congressional review; (8) the only one arguably applicable here is "any rule of agency organization, procedure, or practice that does not substantially affect the rights or obligations of non-agency parties"; (8) in GAO's view, the Plan has a substantial effect on non-agency parties; (9) it allocates areas of the Forest to Land Use Designations and describes the uses to which the land may be put and the activities which may occur there; (10) this management prescription gives general direction on what may occur within an area allocated to a particular Designation, the minimum standards for accomplishing each activity, and guidelines on how to go about accomplishing the standards; and (11) for the foregoing reasons, it is GAO's opinion that the Tongass Plan constitutes a rule under SBREFA and it is subject to review by the Congress in accordance with the procedures set forth therein.

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