AOC Explains Early and Often Communication Agreement.

Contributed by: Gil Riddell | AOC Policy Director, Public Lands and Natural Resources Policy Manager

September 6, 2016

Before a packed court room on August 30, the Crook County Court voted to reject a “Crook County Oregon Natural Resources Plan” drafted by a citizen group called the Crook County Natural Resources Political Action Committee. Voting against adoption were Judge Mike McCabe and Commissioner Ken Fahlgren; Commissioner Seth Crawford voted to adopt it.

During deliberations, the question arose about the nature of the document: is it a policy statement or a land use plan.  Judge McCabe stated that he could not support it as a policy statement, because it contained too many legal disabilities and would be “toothless,” and that if it were a land use plan it must go through the county land use planning process as a comprehensive plan amendment. Commissioner Crawford dissented, stating that even as a policy statement it gives a voice to the county. Commissioner Fahlgren emphasized the good work that is occurring now with successful collaboration projects and open communication with federal agencies, and stated concern about creating legal liability for the county. Included in the vote to reject the plan, the court recommended to plan proponents to seek legal advice to prepare the document for filing with the county planning department as a comprehensive plan amendment.

Present and invited to speak were the Association of Oregon Counties, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. The Forest Service and BLM gave a consistent message, that the plan misstated the law, would disrupt the open communication developed between the agencies and the county, and would serve as another layer of bureaucracy.

Gil Riddell, speaking for AOC, described the ground-breaking agreement among AOC on behalf of Oregon’s 36 counties, the US Forest Service, and BLM. Created by AOC in 2005, the memorandum of agreement (MOA) is designed to head off disputes between a county and federal land management agency by cutting through bureaucracy and requiring early notice of, and discussions about, any significant land management or personnel actions being contemplated at the stage of early staff consideration. Riddell stated that the goal of the MOA is to build trust and understanding among the parties to the point where actual formal policy and rule making are minimized.