Gaelic Wolf Consulting
241 Sand Road
Port Townsend, WA 98368
(360) 531-1073

Snow highlighting sinuous countoured farm fields
Snowy contours in the American mid-west, © Norman MacLeod

Working government-to-government

Statutory coordination is a formal process, mandated in statute, that brings local government to the policy-making table as an equal participant with an agency involved with the development or implementation of public policy. Unlike requesting "cooperating agency" or consultation status, a local government that invokes coordination cannot be denied meaningful government-to-government participation, nor can the agency set the terms of the local government's involvement.

Statutory provision for coordination is included in both federal and state law, and through the principle of in pari materia is supported across a broad range of statutes pertaining to natural resource policy. The principle of in pari materia is a rule of statutory interpretation mandating that laws of the same matter and on the same subject must be construed with reference to one another.

In coordination, a local government is placed in a position where it receives prior notice of proposed actions and is in a position of meaningful participation above that afforded by "public participation" opportunities or what it would enjoy as a "cooperating agency". As an equal at the table, the local government entity can ensure the policy-making agency fulfills its statutory obligation to achieve consistency with local policy related to the matter at hand, and that the information used in the process is complete, accurate, and independently verified.

Who can do this?

Any government entity with elected officials and planning responsibilities can enter into coordination with a federal or a state government agency.  While coordination is most often invoked at the county or municipal level, smaller entities, such as public utility districts, port districts, irrigation districts, fire districts, and others can exercise their coordination authority.  In one case, coordination was employed successfully by a cemetery district.

Does it work?

The short answer to this question is yes.  These examples provide some indications about the power and scope that coordination places in local hands:

  • The Owyhee Initiative resulted in federal legislation and funding, targeted toward improving Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangeland science and resolving grazing issues in Owyhee County, Idaho.
  • A group of very small municipalities in Texas invoked coordination with the Texas Department of Transportation in regard to plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which would have devastated their communities.  The transportation corridor project was withdrawn as a result of the process.
  • When the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) insisted on having approval authority for the Glen Lake Irrigation District (GLID) plan update, and that GLID would require a USFS permit, the district invoked coordination.  The result was that USFS agreed that they have no say in the district plan, nor do they have the authority to require a permit.

How we can help

Coordination offers the opportunity to exercise a broad range of powers and authorities to local governments based on the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers principle. It brings a high degree of local control to federal and state resource management issues.  It can be time-intensive, and needs to be carefully planned and managed.

Through coordination, local government can achieve meaningful participation in regulatory processes to a much greater degree than is possible when involved as a "cooperating agency" or through other various forms of consultation normally offered by state or federal agencies.  Most local governments, though, have not been aware of coordination as a  powerful process available to them.

To make your coordination effort as effective as possible, we will:

  • Evaluate the issues before you, and provide insight about how coordination can be applied.
  • Provide coordination training for your elected and appointed officials.
  • Work with you to identify achievable goals and develop an effective coordination strategy.
  • Facilitate government-to-government meetings between you and the involved agencies.
  • Provide management and other guidance for your coordination process.
  • Facilitate peer relationships between you and other coordinating local governments.
  • Provide other support roles specific to the issues you are coordinating on.