Tag: Sagebrush Rebellion

Counties use a ‘coordination’ clause to fight the feds

Counties use a ‘coordination’ clause to fight the feds

Farm in the Bitterroot Valley, with the Bitterroot National Forest beyond, in Ravalli County, Montana (Via Wikimedia Commons)

In 2011, Ravalli County (Montana) Commissioner Suzy Foss asked American Stewards of Liberty for help. The Texas-based nonprofit trains local governments to use “coordination,” an often-overlooked provision in key environmental laws that govern land management. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act specifically directs the Bureau of Land Management to “coordinate the land use inventory, planning, and management activities” with states, local governments and tribes. The National Forest Management Act includes similar language for the Forest Service.

According to American Stewards Executive Director Margaret Byfield, coordination means that federal agencies must involve counties and states in planning and give them an “equal position at the negotiating table” for decision-making. “It is,” she says, “pretty straightforward.” The nonprofit says over 100 local governments have invoked coordination to fight land-use restrictions since 2006.

Many groups, including environmentalists, try to influence land management with scientific research and alternative management proposals, but policy experts say that the coordination movement has a distinctly anti-federal government flavor — a Sagebrush Rebellion in bureaucratic clothing, with links to state efforts to take over federal lands. Coordination proponents are “essentially arguing a county would have veto authority on federal land decisions,” says Martin Nie, director of the Bolle Center for People and Forests at the University of Montana. And federal officials, who interpret “coordination” very differently, fear it’s stoking more conflicts than it resolves by misinforming locals.

But though critics, including federal land managers, may dismiss American Stewards’ interpretation of coordination, it’s gaining traction among state and U.S. lawmakers and Western governors. “It has no legal basis, but it’s as much about trying to frame things politically,” Nie says.These proposals are pushing way, way outside the mainstream.”

“Counties use a ‘coordination’ clause to fight the feds “

High Country News, May 11, 2015

Serendipity in the Desert

Serendipity in the Desert

Anti-government Sagebrush Rebels have long ruled local decision-making in southern Utah, but change is in the air with the infusion of wilderness wanderers and animal aficionados.

My January 24, 2011 cover story for High Country News, “Utah’s Sagebrush Rebellion capital mellows as animal-lovers and enviros move in,” reports on the region’s swirling social, political and environmental dynamics, from antigovernment protests over public lands to failed bikini bans to supposedly uphold local, social values.

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