Resource Management Plan
Mesa County has secured a contract with Y2 Consultants, LLC for development of a Resource Management Plan (“RMP”). The process, which kicked off in late January 2020, will serve as a guide for management of public lands in Mesa County.
Y2 Consultants, based in Jackson, Wyoming, has completed several similar projects, including an RMP for Rio Blanco County in 2016. They specialize in land planning issues throughout the west and are familiar with the many issues facing our public lands.
Check back to join in the development process, see dates for public meetings and draft plan review opportunities.
If you are interested in being notified when new information if posted, public meetings are scheduled and other opportunities to be involved are available, please complete the comment form with your contact information.
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Interesting in learing more about the RMP? Click on the headings below for more information
What is the purpose of a Natural Resource Management Plan?
A Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) is a document prepared and adopted by a local government that federal agencies are required to review and consider when making decisions that may affect the local area. Locally-elected governments and elected officials have far ranging and important responsibilities to their constituents, described by state statutes as protecting their “health, safety and welfare.” That responsibility includes specifically interacting with federal agencies on all federal issues impacting the local community and counties. Rural counties’ socioeconomic well-being, health, safety, and culture can be strongly impacted by the management of the surrounding federal and public lands. To give the locally elected government the strongest voice it can have during “government-to-government” interaction, local governments can formally adopt “local land use plans” (LUPs) or NRMPs. These plans establish local policy regarding the use and management of federal lands in their jurisdiction and can influence the development and implementation of federal policies, programs and other types of federal decision-making regarding federal lands that affect a local community. NRMPs are intended to help protect the local citizens’ use of, and access to, federal and public lands and resources and to ensure the socioeconomic wellbeing, culture, and customs of a local community are adequately considered in federal decisions (Budd-Falen, 2018).
These local LUPs are not zoning and do not regulate the use of private lands. When people think of LUPs, they typically think of the general planning document that counties use to determine zoning on private lands. A NRMP is a separate type of land use plan prepared by rural counties and conservation districts, containing policies relating to the management of federal and public land in the county and reflecting the local government’s position on federal decisions concerning those lands (Budd-Falen, 2018).
Local governments do not have jurisdiction over the federal government or federal land. NRMPs cannot require federal agencies to take specific actions. However, federal agencies and departments are mandated by various federal statutes to engage local governments during the decision-making process on federal plans, policies, and programs that will impact the management of land and natural resources within a community and ultimately affect the local tax base and lives of local citizens. Federal agencies are required to coordinate and consult with local governments and to give meaningful consideration to policies asserted in written plans prepared and adopted by local governments concerning management of federal lands in their area (Budd-Falen, 2018).
This county natural resource plan serves as a basis for communicating and coordinating with the federal government and its agencies on land and natural resource management issues. Counties are particularly well-suited to understand the impacts that federal land management decisions may have on the local economy, custom and culture.
Federal statutes provide opportunities for counties to share with agencies this kind of expertise. Specifically, federal laws require federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), to consider state and local land use plans and to explain deviations from these plans in decision documents per the following statutes.
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its implementing regulations require all federal agencies to address inconsistencies between a proposed action and State and local plans and address the extent to which the agency would harmonize its proposed action with the local law or plan. Federal agencies are required to “cooperate with State and local agencies to the fullest extent possible to reduce duplication between NEPA and State and local requirements.”
- The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), BLM’s guiding statute, requires BLM to coordinate their land use plans with local and state government land use plans, providing that BLM’s plans “shall be consistent with State and local plans to the maximum extent [the Agency] finds consistent with Federal law and the purposes of this Act.”
- The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) requires the USFS to coordinate National Forest land and resource plans with “the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments and other Federal agencies[.]” While the USFS is not required to comply with State and local plans, a final decision document must contain results of a review of local plans, including consideration of objectives, the compatibility and interrelated impacts of USFS plans and local government policies, opportunities to contribute to common objectives and ways to reduce conflicts between a Forest Service plan and local policies.
While the objectives and priorities of the county may not be consistent with existing management plans or practices of the federal or State of Colorado government, the plan is consistent with federal and State law.
 40 C.F.R. § 1506.2.
 43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9).
 16 U.S.C. § 1604(a).
 36 C.F.R. § 2019.4(b)(2).
Statutory Requirements and Legal Framework
Federal agencies are required to identify and analyze the impacts to local economies and community culture when making decisions. NRMPs outline the present economic and cultural conditions and desired future conditions of a local community and demonstrate how those conditions are tied to activities on adjoining federal and public lands. The plan establishes the local government’s preferred policies for the planned use, management, protection, and preservation of the natural resources on the federal and public lands within its jurisdiction. The goal is to protect private property, the local tax base, and local custom and culture. An adopted NRMP is a critical tool that allows a local government to have a substantive impact on federal decisions, plans, policies, and programs. A written plan can play a key role in the success of a local government engaging the federal government (Budd-Falen, 2018).
Required engagement between federal agencies and local governments takes the form of “consistency review” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the requirement for “coordination” under both FLPMA and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and engaging local governments acting as a “cooperating agency” under NEPA, and a State Governor’s consistency review process.
The National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) applies to “every major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” (42 U.S.C. § 4332(1)(C)). The courts have interpreted this to mean that every time the federal government spends any amount of money for almost any action, NEPA compliance is required.
NEPA requires that agencies undertake an environmental analysis to determine whether a federal action has the potential to cause significant environmental effects. If a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment, federal agencies are required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The regulatory requirements for an EIS are more detailed and rigorous than the requirements for an Environmental Assessment (EA). There are several ways local governments can participate in the NEPA process depending on the type of federal decision, the level of commitment of the local government, and the goals of the local government.
First, local government can use these plans as part of the federal agency’s “consistency review” process. Under this provision, if the federal agency receives a local plan in the course of writing an EIS or EA, NEPA commands the federal agency to “discuss any inconsistency of a proposed action with any approved state or local plan and laws (whether or not federally sanctioned). Where an inconsistency exists, the [environmental impact] statement should describe the extent to which the [federal] agency would reconcile its proposed action with the [local government] plan or law.” (40 C.F.R. §§ 1506.2, 1506.2(d)). For the local government to take advantage of the consistency review requirements, a written and adopted local plan is required. With a written plan, this analysis happens even when the local government does not know about the pending decision or action as long as the LUP was provided in advance to the reviewing federal agency.
NEPA requires that copies of comments from state or local governments accompany the EIS or EA throughout the review process (42 U.S.C. § 4332(c)). Written comments submitted by a local government not tied to a formally adopted NRMP require less consideration than those tiered to an adopted NRMP.
Local governments can separately participate in the NEPA process as a “cooperating agency” (40 C.F.R. § 1508.5). “Cooperating agency status” requires federal agencies to work with local governments before any federal plan or proposal is presented to the general public. It does not require a written land use plan prepared by local governments. If a local government believes that a proposed federal action will impact the local government, and the local government wants to be involved in the federal process at its inception, the government may request “cooperating agency status” to the deciding federal agency. Should a local government request cooperating agency status for a particular agency decision (for example, the designation of critical habitat for a listed threatened or endangered species), the local government can participate in drafting portions of the relevant NEPA document. This can involve identifying appropriate scientific data, assisting with alternative development for the proposed federal action, and ensuring that the discussion of impacts to the local economy or the local citizens is accurate. A NRMP, while not required, can aide this process and analysis. Cooperating agency status can be reserved for more significant federal decision likely to have a larger impact on a community and is not required for every federal action.
Pursuant to NEPA, an applicant for cooperating agency status must be a locally elected body such as a conservation district, board of supervisors, or a county commission; and possess “special expertise.” A local government’s special expertise is defined as the authority granted to a local governing body by state statute. See Section 2.5 for county authority under state law.
Cooperating agency status can be an expensive, time consuming, and cumbersome process and may be particularly challenging for small rural communities with limited resources. A NRMP ensures that the federal agency addresses the county’s policies for virtually every federal decision without the burden of cooperating agency status.
The National Forest Management Act
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) governs the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and requires the agency to “coordinate”. The NFMA requirements are as follows:
[T]he Secretary of Agriculture shall develop, maintain, and, as appropriate, revise land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System, coordinated with the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments and other Federal agencies. (16 U.S.C. § 1604(a)).
The fact that the USFS is directed to “coordinate” with local governments implies, by its plain meaning, that the USFS must engage in a process that involves more than simply “considering” the plans and policies of local governments; it must attempt to achieve compatibility between USFS plans and local land use plans.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which governs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), provides detailed requirements for “coordination” and “consistency” with local land use plans. With regard to the requirements for “coordination”, FLPMA states that the BLM must:
To the extent consistent with laws governing the administration of the public lands, coordinate the land use inventory, planning, and management activities of or for such lands with the land use planning and management programs of other Federal departments and agencies and of the State and local governments within which the lands are located […] by considering the policies of approved State and tribal land resource management programs (43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9)).
Such coordination is to be achieved by:
- To the extent practicable, the BLM must stay apprised of local land use plans.
- The BLM must assure that local land use plans germane to the development of BLM land use plans are given consideration.
- To the extent practicable, the BLM must assist in resolving inconsistencies between local and BLM land use plans.
- The BLM must provide for the meaningful involvement of local governments in the development of BLM land use programs, regulations, and decisions. This includes early notification of proposed decisions that may impact non-federal lands. (43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9)).
Additionally, FLPMA requires BLM land use plans to be consistent with local land use plans, provided that achieving consistency does not result in a violation of federal law. FLPMA states: “Land use plans of the Secretary [of the Interior,] under this section shall be consistent with State and local plans to the maximum extent he finds consistent with Federal law and the purposes of this Act.” (43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9)).
In other words, FLPMA requires both “coordination” and “consistency review.” Coordination should include both regularly scheduled meetings between the various local governments and BLM managers, as well as inviting local BLM staff to local government meetings (Bureau of Land Management, 2012b). Pursuant to FLPMA’s consistency review requirement, if a BLM land use plan is inconsistent with a local land use plan, the BLM owes an explanation of how achieving consistency would result in a violation of federal law. (43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9)).
Governor’s Consistency Review Process
FLPMA also requires that the BLM provide for a governor’s consistency review as part of their land use planning process (43 C.F.R. § 1610.3-2(e)). State governors are entitled to an additional and entirely separate review of BLM land use plans, revisions, and amendments; this provides an opportunity to identify any inconsistencies with state or local plans. If the governor’s comments result in changes to the plan, the public should be re-engaged in the process. The governor may also use policies in the NRMP in their review of the proposed federal action.
National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) was established by the Organic Act in 1916. At the time there were 14 national parks and 21 national monuments the NPS was developed to manage. The Preservation of Historic Sites Act of 1935, the Wilderness Act of 1964, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 all contributed to the evolution of the NPS and how the agency managed park land. NEPA and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1969 and 1973 increased the complexity and prevalence of science in park management. Throughout this time span the NPS had grown to solely oversee all of the nation’s parklands, this included parks previously held by the War Department, the national monuments previously managed by the Forest Service, and the parks which resided in Washington D.C. The National Park Omnibus Management Act of 1998 increased accountability and improved management for multiple NPS programs. This legislation required that the NPS receive authorization from Congress prior to studying potential areas for addition the National Park System (Department of the Interior: National Park Service, n.d.).
In accordance with Executive Order 13352, the NPS is required to carry out its natural resource management responsibilities in a cooperative manner that considers the interests of individuals “with ownership or other legally recognized interested in land and other natural resources” (“FedCenter—Executive Order 13352,” n.d.). NPS is also expected to accommodate local participation in Federal decision-making (“FedCenter—Executive Order 13352,” n.d.).
Please note, the following dates are tentative and may change as needed. Official dates, times and locations of Steering Committee meetings will also be posted above.
March 10, 2020 Steering Committee Meeting, 10:00am to 1:00pm
Location: Mesa County Fairgrounds, Community Building, 2785 US-50, Grand Junction, CO 81503