Coordination Training in Portola 041711
Supervisors and county staff from six Northern California counties met near Portola to discuss the problems of dealing with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The topic: Coordination.
The presentation was made by Shaun Curtis, land use planner from Modoc county.
The term “coordination” refers to the process by which local governments find parity in discussion with federal land managers on land use planning issues.
“Coordination” is found in the law, and has been upheld in case law. It requires federal planners to be aware of local land use and recreation plans; to inform and meet as equals with local government entities, provide an analysis and possible mitigating options where the plans conflict, and demonstrate the law when they can’t change plans.
The training described the difference between coordination and being a “cooperating agency”.
When cooperating the local agency often loses the option to sue, and they find themselves de facto supporting the lead agency. Coordination provides a more equal footing and preserves the right to other kinds of action.
One place coordination might be used in when counties try to mediate the drastic curtailment of public access to forest land under the FS travel management plan. County citizens need access to the open land for retrieval of game when hunting, to gather firewood, to tend livestock and other legitimate reasons. The district forests all over the US have been instructed to reduce travel to mitigate harm from invasive species, damage to historical sites, and damage to the environment, and reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle accident. That basically means we’ve lost the use of our wild forest lands.
Coordination has been used in Modoc county to help prevent loss of access to lands due to endangered species. Similar coordination efforts might save other public lands from well meaning public lands managers.
Proponents of Coordination are quick to say it’s not a “magic bullet”. Even after meeting with the Forest Service it is possible that interpretation of regulation might leave differences between the county and FS. Still, a place at the table with equal footing gives local government what chance there is.
It isn’t easy to have much say over what happens in our federal lands, but coordination might be one way local governments can find equal footing.