Owyhee River in Malheur County, Ore.  Bureau of Land Management, Oregon and Washingtonby Amanda Peacher OPB
April 4, 2016 3:10 p.m. | Updated: April 4, 2016 6:15 p.m.
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Counties across Oregon are turning toward a little-known federal policy as a means to have more say in how federal lands in their backyards are managed.

These counties are using “coordination,” an obscure provision in two federal environmental policy laws that require agencies to coordinate with local governments in land use planning.

Baker County Chair Bill Harvey describes coordination as putting local and federal governments on “equal footing.”

“When you come to a planning table, you both have the same authority level,” Harvey said, noting that the eventual plan should align county and federal priorities. “You come up with a plan, and the plan is supposed to be consistent between the two ideas.”

Harvey spearheaded an effort to revise Baker County’s existing natural resource plan and invoke the process of coordination last fall. The revised plan emphasizes logging, grazing and mining as resource priorities. Baker, like many eastern Oregon counties, is made up of more than 50 percent federal lands.

Now some citizen groups are turning toward coordination to establish what they see as a local right to govern federal lands. At times, their message echoes the sentiments of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who expressed frustration with federal government overreach and wanted to see local control of federal lands.

Some are fed up with forest fire management, and want to see increased timber harvest. Others are frustrated with the way federal agencies manage wild horses, or potential road closures on public lands.

Coordination As A Tool To Give Counties Voice

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