County to feds: Let us know before land-use decisions

Before Uncle Sam makes a land-use decision in Washington, D.C., affecting Jackson County residents, the county Board of Commissioners should be consulted.

That is the gist of a strongly worded resolution being considered by the board.

"What this says is that before they (agencies) do something that will affect us, they have to consult with the local government — the county," explained Commissioner Don Skundrick.

"On one hand, it could be spitting in the wind," he acknowledged. "Nothing says they have to do what we want them to do. But, on the other hand, this would give us a seat at the table when it comes to land-use issues affecting us."

The second hearing on the resolution will be during the weekly commissioners' meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Jackson County Courthouse, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

During the session, the public can comment on the resolution. The board could pass it on that day or put it aside for further deliberation.

If the resolution becomes county law, it would be unique among Oregon's 36 counties, said Gil Riddell, policy coordinator for the Association of Oregon Counties.

"I don't know of any county that has such a broadly structured protocol like the one Jackson County is adopting," he said, noting the resolution was presented at the association's annual conference earlier this year.

However, through the association, every county in Oregon has an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stay in close communication regarding land-use issues, he noted.

Agency representatives indicated the agencies make a point of working closely with county governments to ensure local and federal land-use planning flow together, providing the county efforts are consistent with federal laws and regulations.

"We always welcome discussions with the counties," said Jim Whittington, spokesman for the BLM's Medford District. District staff meets with representatives of Jackson and Josephine counties once a month to discuss management issues, he added.

But resolution supporters say it would give the county a bit more muscle. Moreover, federal laws back up the resolution, they say.

"We have found precedent that gives us the authority to require our input," County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

As examples, he listed the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. What's more, the county has the authority to enact the mandate under the police powers spelled out in its home rule charter, Jordan said.

"Basically, there are a number of federal statutes, regulations or court cases that provide for coordination with affected local governments," he said.

Would the ordinance give the county the ability to take legal action?

"We believe so, but that doesn't mean we would take it," he said, adding the point is to make certain the local government has a say in how local federal lands are managed.

"We also want to make sure they give consideration to local plans," he said.

While he said he believes the ordinance has teeth, he acknowledged it is entering uncharted territory because of the breadth of the resolution.

"I don't know of any case as broad as our ordinance," he said.

The resolution is meant to ensure federal land managers will consider the impact their decisions have on everything from catastrophic fires to jobs in the woods, even the impact on private land adjacent to federal forestlands, said Commissioner C.W. Smith.

"This will at least make them consider our input," he said.

"The Jackson County Board of Commissioners want people in Washington to understand: Do not make a decision without our input when dealing with federal lands in our county," added Commissioner John Rachor.

Paul Fattig is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4496 or email him at

Share This Story