At the end of last year, Chaves County, New Mexico, was made aware that the U.S. Forest Service was preparing to recommend new wilderness areas within their County. The Forest Service had failed to coordinate the plan with the County as required under the National Forest Management Act. Through a series of letters to the agency, comments and a resolution, Chaves County requested that the federal agency not move forward until they had properly coordinated the issue with the County. (See Liberty Matters, 12-23-21)
January 7, 2022, the Lincoln National Forest Supervisor responded and requested a meeting to cover among other items, “Your plans and consistency with the Forest plan.” The discussion is scheduled for January 26, 2022.
Section 6 of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) states that the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, “shall develop, maintain, and, as appropriate, revise land and resource management plans . . . coordinated with the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments.” (16 U.S.C. § 1604(a)) Coordination is an important requirement that is intended to ensure local governments play a significant role in the planning and management of National Forest System resources. However, the federal agency rarely fulfills this duty, and only when counties insist that they do so, as Chaves County has done on this critical issue.
Norman D. James and Ronald W. Opsahl with Fennemore Craig, P.C., explain the requirement Congress placed on the Forest Service in “Forest Service and State, County, and Local Government Coordination Under NFMA Section 6,” published September 7, 2017.
If your county or local government needs help bringing the federal agencies to the table to coordinate their federal land management plans, please reach out to us at American Stewards. We can help guide you through the process.