Update from the OCMP: Tribal Coordination Procedures Development

Since my last post, the scope of my project has shifted to developing tribal coordination and consultation procedures for the entire Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP), rather than just for federal consistency reviews.  In part, this is because it was proving difficult to separate the activities of the federal consistency review program from those of the larger OCMP.  The project team also recognized that the strategy for tribal engagement during federal consistency reviews is somewhat limited by nature.  As my recently departed (and sorely missed) mentor, Deanna Caracciolo, likes to say… the federal consistency review is usually the “caboose” of a federal permitting process.  By the time the OCMP initiates its review, the federal agency and any OCMP network partners with permitting responsibilities (i.e. state agencies) may have already communicated with potentially impacted Tribes about the proposed action.  Therefore, to limit duplication of effort and respect the limited resources of our partners – including the Tribes – the OCMP will aim to “complement” any previous tribal engagement efforts and offer an opportunity for a final double-check for any emerging concerns.  This strategy roughly mirrors that of our neighboring coastal management program in California.  As this is a fairly common sense and straightforward solution, there is fortunately bandwidth in the scope of this project to branch out to the wider OCMP!

As I move forward in this project, my approach to the development of the tribal coordination and consultation procedures is to:

Use the existing Department of Land Conservation and Development policy for government-to-government relations as the framework: This policy is required per Oregon Revised Statutes 182.162 through 182.168.  My project is essentially implementing the policy through the development of procedures specific for the OCMP.  It is an important – and complex – distinction that the requirement is to set up a program that promotes positive relations between the state and the Tribes through cooperation and communication.  Big “C” consultation (formal consultation) is part of it, but the wider focus on cooperation recognizes that ongoing opportunities for collaboration and coordination between the state and the Tribes are critical to developing the underlying relationships.

Normalize communication:  Establishing a fairly standardized cycle of routine communication and coordination helps with the building of relationships and pathways for information flow.  These relationships and pathways can then be leaned on as the need for non-routine communication arises or when there are emerging issues.  More frequent communication also means more opportunities to get feedback and adjust, as needed.  In setting up this communication cycle, it is my goal to leverage existing processes to maximize sustainability and not create more work than is necessary.  For example, each agency is required to submit an annual report to the Legislative Commission on Indian Services regarding the previous year’s tribal engagement activities: we are aiming to set up reporting and monitoring forms that can easily be fed into the annual report.

Clarify roles and responsibilities:  Part of this project has been seeking to understand what the OCMP is currently doing when it comes to tribal engagement – identifying who is currently coordinating with the tribes and any future opportunities for coordination.  We don’t want to fix anything that isn’t broken and want to build on whatever is already working.  Ultimately, the goal is to develop a structure of roles and responsibilities internal to the OCMP for monitoring and advocating for tribal engagement opportunities.  Again, we want to make this as painless as possible – so we are proposing relatively simple solutions like a standing agenda item at the all staff meeting regarding tribal engagement to keep this at the front of everyone’s minds.

Develop robust but flexible procedures: Uncertainty can be a hurdle to efficient and effective communication, so we are developing procedures and best practices to help staff determine what type of coordination is appropriate for different types of activities.  For example, the process of initiating formal consultation through letters to the Tribal Council can feel a little stressful.  We want to get in front of this (and the possible stress) by identifying the types of activities that are generally suitable for staff-to-staff coordination.  These procedures will also capture communication strategies and roles and responsibilities.

We shared our proposed framework for procedure development with the Tribes during a workshop in late February 2022.  We were extremely grateful and excited that representatives of seven of the nine federally recognized Tribal Nations in Oregon were able to attend.  This was an opportunity to share more information about the OCMP, its authority, its programs, and federal consistency reviews and get some feedback from the attendees.  The workshop was advertised as the first of many opportunities to communicate and coordinate with our tribal partners.  Over the next few months, I am looking forward to facilitating further conversations between the OCMP and tribal staff to learn more about the Tribes’ interests in the coastal zone and ensure the procedures we are developing meet their needs.  

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