The Act was pushed with bi-partisan support as a result of a huge oil spill off the California coast near Santa Barbara. Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson of Washington State led the fight which became bipartisan because of the national outrage over the destruction wrought by the spill.

The events following that spill and Senator Jackson’s efforts ushered in an environmentalism era that had not been seen before.

The language of “coordination” in NEPA is as follows:

42 USC 4331 (NEPA Section 101): The Congress, recognizing the profound impact of man’s activity on the interrelationship of all components of the natural environment, particularly the profound influence of population growth, high-density urbanization, industrial expansion, resource exploitation, and new and expanding technological advances and recognizing further the critical importance of restoring and maintaining environmental quality to the overall welfare and development of man, declares that it is the continuing policy of the Federal government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.

In order to carry out the policy set forth in this chapter, it is the continuing responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy, to improve and ‘coordinate’ Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the Nation may —

  • Fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee for the environment for succeeding generations;
  • Assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive and esthetically and culturally pleasing.
  • Attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable an unintended consequences.
  • Preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice
  • Achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life’s amenities; and
  • Enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depleted resources.”

In 1976, another northwestern senator, Robert Packwood of Oregon, had the foresight to protect the local governments and people from federal bureaucrats who he could see would run all over locals with the environmental rules and regulations that now had become the “candy” of the regulators because it gave them what they love: control over people’s lives and lands.

He sponsored an amendment to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act as it was being ushered through Congress and included the language which requires the Secretary of Interior to “coordinate” all plans, policies and management actions with local governments.

And, Senator Packwood went further to specify just how that coordination was to take place and the result to be reached: “consistency” with local policies, plans, and actions. So, he made sure that the law as to range management would serve the needs of local ranchers, farmers, recreation interests, miners, loggers, and those that love nature.

The language he used did the following:

Lest there be any doubt that the Congressional mandate is that agencies should seek consistency with local governments, one must consider carefully the manner in which the duty of the agencies is phrased: The agency shall

  • “Coordinate” the land use inventory, planning, and management activities of or for such lands with the land use planning management programs of other Federal departments and agencies and of the States and “local governments” with coordination to include
  • “consideration” of local government plans and policies [Cambridge Dictionary defines as “spend time thinking about a possibility or making a decision”]
  • “assist in resolving inconsistencies” between federal and local plans
  • “provide meaningful public involvement” of local government in development of land use programs, regulations and decisions.
  • give early notice to local government of proposed decisions
  • And land use plans “shall be consistent with…local plans to the maximum extent possible under federal law.

In 1991, Fred Kelly Grant discovered the statutory “coordination” authority for local governments to negotiate with federal agencies to bring federal policies, plans and actions into consistency with local policies, plans and actions.

He discovered the process when he was asked to assist ranchers in Owyhee County, Idaho who were faced with potential 40% reduction in grazing. The Bureau of Land Management proposed to implement the reduction under a new Resource Management Plan which was then in the discussion stage.

By implementing the process in Owyhee County, Grant and the County Commissioners and Sheriff Gary Aman made sure the proposed reductions in grazing never took place. Under the proposed reductions, many ranchers would have put out of business; under the coordination process, no ranchers have been driven out of business.