A resolution was passed on August 23 that asserts that the federal land agencies, namely the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, are obligated to coordinate efforts with local government.
In the resolution, the county “requests that the federal land management agencies coordinate with the county in land use inventory, planning and management efforts, as required by federal law.”
Commissioners said that federal law explicitly states that the federal agencies have to coordinate with local government. “We have a different status than the general public,” explained Commissioner Bruce Adams.
“If federal agencies are doing anything in San Juan County that involves public land, they need to consider San Juan County policy,” said Commissioner Lynn Stevens. “By federal law, they cannot ignore us.”
San Juan County last amended and adopted a master plan, which outlines county land-use policy, in March, 2008.
Commissioner Adams stressed that the county looks to the federal land agencies as partners and not as adversaries, but added that the county “needs to resolve discrepancies between federal and county policy through a coordinating effort.”
The Commission stated that the coordinating effort would be needed in a number of areas, including road issues, resource management plans and in areas such as Salt Creek and Arch Canyon.
Commissioners stated that the local federal agency officials have worked relatively well with the county, but overall policy often fails to take into account the concerns of local government.
Commissioners added that they have expressed concerns over the years about a variety of matters and feel that some of the concerns have not been addressed. They expressed hope that the new resolution will remind the federal agencies of their legal responsibilities.
“By federal law, they cannot ignore us,” continued Stevens. “If they do, we will cite the law and take them to court and let a judge decide.”
He added that environmental groups sue the federal agencies “all the time” because they say that the agencies are not following their own law. As far as Stevens is aware, local governments have not used the same arguments to sue the federal agencies, but they might in the future.
Stevens said that federal agencies have a mandate to coordinate with local government and they do not have a mandate to coordinate with environmental groups.