Coordination between federal agencies and State and local governments is necessary to ensure consistent policies between the two governing jurisdictions.
Federal agencies are tasked with specific responsibilities. For example, the federal land management agencies of the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are required to manage the federal lands and their multiple uses.
Local governments, however, are tasked with a much different responsibility: to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people. They are given broad authority to ensure this end, including planning responsibilities, police powers, and taxing authority for all the land within the political jurisdiction. This includes the federal and state lands.
When federal law requires the Bureau of Land Management to coordinate its “inventory, planning, and management activities” with local governments, for example, it is obligating the agency to ensure its management of the habitat does not inhibit the local governments’ ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people.
As a practical matter, it makes good sense for the necessary and distinct governing bodies to negotiate early in planning process for the purpose of resolving conflicts and achieving consistency between plans and goals. It is simply good governance.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) passed in 1976, defines the minimum requirements for “coordination” by specifying exactly how the federal agency should negotiate with local government. (43 USC § 1712) These are:
- Keep apprised of State, local and tribal land use plans;
- Assure that consideration is given to local plans when developing a federal plan, policy or management action;
- Provide early notification (prior to public notice) to local governments of development of any plan, policy or action;
- Provide opportunity for meaningful input by local governments into development of the plan, policy or action; and
- Make all practical effort to resolve conflicts between federal and local policy and reach consistency.
The common dictionary definition of “coordinate” shows that a person or party operating in “coordinate” fashion is operating as a party “of equal importance, rank or degree, not subordinate.” (Webster’s New International Dictionary)