Local planning and forest planning

I think this article was an offshoot of the recent surge in discussion of transferring federal land to Montana (and other western states).  (A number of the articles linked in the sidebar are about that.)

This article ends up making an important point, but also shows how people can take that point and run the wrong way with it.  The important point is that a local land use plan is essential for having a discussion with the Forest Service about how a forest plan may affect local land use (and vice versa).  NFMA requires the the Forest Service planning process be “coordinated with the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments and other Federal agencies.”  The 2012 planning rule requires the forest supervisor to “review the planning and land use policies” of other governments.

Here are the problems.  A local consultant states that, “federal land management must be consistent with local plans to the greatest extent possible.”  There is no such requirement; coordinating the process does not mean consistency with the results.  A county commissioner says, “more tangible issues, like whether a forest road gets maintained or how energy exploration and wilderness designations get decided, are what residents really care about.”  Local land use plans have no jurisdiction over federal lands and should not be addressing management activities that occur there.  Putting that kind of thing in a local plan does not bring it within the NFMA coordination requirement.  On the other hand, there may be need of coordinated planning of connected infrastructure like roads (or where subdivisions occur in relation to NFS management).

I’d like to think that whatever it takes to get local planning to occur is a good thing.  But I think that circulating the idea that local land use plans can govern federal land use will do more harm than good.


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