Some of Interior Secretary James G. Watt's four-year goals are to "open wilderness areas" and "realign the entire environmental impact statement system," according to a Watt memorandum made public yesterday by the Sierra Club.
The conservationist group called the goals "too arrogant to be believable." But Douglas Baldwin, Watt's chief aide, said the cryptic notations were much less than they seemed. Spelled out, the phrases would be "a road map we can proudly publish and confidently work on," he said.
The seven-page memo from Watt to his department heads, dated May 7, is titled "Management by Objectives" and lists goals the chiefs had discussed with Watt at a May 2 meeting. In a cover letter Watt orders the department heads to "show monthly progress" toward the goal, put them in terms of concrete accomplishments and bring disagreements directly to him.
Four or five goals for each department, each a dozen words or less, are listed on separate pages without elaboration. The "goals of the solicitor" include the phrases "open wilderness areas" and "settle pending lawsuits." To "realign the entire EIS [environmental impact statement] system," is tops on the "goals of the secretary" page, followed by "develop a strategic minerals policy," "implement Indian self-determination," "streamline the OCS [outer continental shelf] program" and "restore and improve the parks."
Other listings include "remove regulatory restrictions" and "increase production of energy and mineral resources" at the energy and mineral department, "improve reservation economies through resource development" at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and "formulate land acquisition policy" and "efficiently manage national park system" for the fish, wildlife and parks division.
The memo also cited "water policy" and "new public lands policy," without elaboration, for the land and water resources department.
"Sierra Club Washington office director John McComb said the memo "clearly peels the mask from Watt's effort to portray himself as being in the mainstream of environmental thinking." Promising "lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit" if necessary, McComb said: "This pledge to lay our wilderness areas open to exploitation is almost too arrogant to be believable."
Baldwin said the phrase, and the other goal statements, were "bureaucratic shorthand" copied from a paper flip chart used to guide talks at the May 2 meeting. The goal to open wilderness areas, he said, referred to Watt's previously announced policy of allowing leaseholders to do exploratory work on land under consideration for designation as wilderness -- an issue still in litigation.
Realignment of environmental impact statements, Baldwin said, will make them "serve scientific and economic objectives" and not social ones.
Tom Mahoney of the Sierra Club stuck to his guns. The wilderness reference, he said, "is not a professional land-use decision. It's a point-blank order, and a political one at that."