What is Coordination?

The “coordination process” as directed by Congress is simply a process by which local government and federal agencies are to meet in a government to government dialogue in order to attempt to reach consistency between federal plans and actions and local plans and policies.

Congress has directed every federal agency to engage in this government-to-government process with local governments.

Congress has recognized that local government has a position in planning and policy making that is superior to that of the general public.  The reasons are clear:  local government is dependent on revenue from the tax base in the unit to provide necessary services to the citizens.  The unit of local government has the duty to provide for the public safety, health and welfare, so it must be involved in development of plans and policies that affect the human and natural environment, and resources within its jurisdiction and within its sphere of influence.

Congress has mandated that the federal agencies engage in the “coordination” process that provides local government with a meaningful seat at the negotiating table with federal agencies.  Congress has directed that local governments be given early notice of federal plan/policy development, and also given the opportunity for meaningful participation in the development and implementation of plans/policies.  The federal management agencies are directed to pay special attention to inconsistencies between federal plans and actions, and local plans and actions.

The ultimate goal Congress has set for the “coordination” process is CONSISTENCY[1] between federal and local plans, policies and actions.

What is the legal basis for coordination?

Coordination was first codified by Congress in the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4331, 4332. In 1976 congress passed the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), 43 U.S. Code Sections 1711, 1712 which spells out in detail the concept of coordination, including “Land use plans of the Secretary under this section shall be consistent with State and local plans to the maximum extent he finds consistent with Federal law and the purposes of this Act.”, also under section 1712, (9) “assist in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal Government plans”.

NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT (NFMA), 16 USC, sec 1604, (a) Development, maintenance, and revision by Secretary of Agriculture as part of program; coordination. As a part of the Program provided for by section 1602 of this title, the Secretary of Agriculture shall develop, maintain, and, as appropriate, revise land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System, coordinated with the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments and other Federal agencies

[1] The Random House Dictionary – 1) The condition of holding together and retaining from 2) degree of density or firmness 3) steadfast adherence to the principles, course, etc. 4) agreement between parts or things