Farewell from the Tribal Federal Consistency Policy and Processes Fellow!

Hello all!  I am writing with the final update on my project to develop procedures for how the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) coordinates with tribes during federal consistency reviews, as I finished up my fellowship last week. 

To return to the cliffhanger of my last blog post, I am happy to report that our proposal to incorporate additional policies related to archaeological resource protection and Native American grave protection into the suite of policies considered during federal consistency reviews was approved by NOAA.  With this change, the OCMP will be able to further highlight and raise awareness of the state of Oregon’s commitment to the protection of these sites of significance to the tribes.  During a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide applicants with information to help them learn more about these standards.  This includes resources about inadvertent discovery of human remains on the Legislative Commission on Indian Service’s website and guidance about the issuance of archaeological permits from the State Historic Preservation Office’s guidance on the issuance of archaeological permits.

I am also pleased to say the tribal coordination procedures were distributed to tribes via formal consultation letters at the beginning of October, marking a significant milestone in this fellowship project.  The OCMP’s goal in implementing these procedures is to bring the tribes to the table during federal consistency reviews and management decisions to ensure their voices are heard and their expertise is considered.  To ease implementation and sustainability, the procedures are designed to be simple and common sense, and nested naturally in existing processes.  They are built on a few commitments to standardize communication and coordination which we shared with the tribes: 

Do the “pre-work”

As federal consistency comes with a unique lingo and timelines established by federal regulations, it can be difficult to step into the federal consistency “world” without some orientation.  In February of 2022, the OCMP took an early step in the “pre-work,” to provide some background on federal consistency and how it “works.”  We also provided the tribes with summaries and graphics to describe the process with our formal consultation letters.  Those letters also requested specific information from the tribes to tailor the procedure as appropriate: 1) confirmation that the tribe wants to be informed of federal consistency reviews; 2) types of activities of interest, whether there is particular geographic extent or topic area; and 3) who should be the primary contacts the OCMP should include in our mailing lists.

Early notification

Upon initiation of a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide notification to tribes.  This will be as early as possible in the process to ensure the tribe has enough time to review.  It will be separate from the public comment period, as the federally recognized tribes are not members of the public – they are sovereign nations.  This notification includes standard and clear information; templates have been developed to support.

Communication and coordination

The notification message specifically requests comments on the project, but we leave the door open for different levels of coordination.  This means that there could be informal staff-to-staff coordination and communication up to formal consultation between OCMP leadership and the Tribal Councils, whatever the tribe requests.  Any comments received would be acted on.  This might mean facilitating coordination between the federal agency issuing the permit or taking the action and the tribe. 


This last commitment is about “showing the work.”  The OCMP is maintaining records of communication with the tribes.  Any actionable comments will be documented in decision letters, though we will be mindful of not including potentially sensitive information.  Copies of decision letters will also be provided to tribes if they provided comment or upon their request.

As I wrap this up I want to say thank you to everyone at the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Coastal Management Program for the opportunity to work on this project!  It has been a real privilege to be able to dig into these issues and develop some processes that will hopefully work in the long-term.  

Updates from the OCMP: Minding the Federal Consistency Review Shop

Since my last post, the direction of my fellowship has shifted yet again.  I have hinted in previous posts that I have been given a lot of latitude to take the work in any direction I see fit – so the project has grown and shrunk and grown again as I learn more about the system in which I’m working.  This is really my favorite type of environment to work in – I like dynamic work, following random threads, learning new things, and not always knowing what’s next.  That being said… this latest shift was not as welcome because it came as a result of the departure my mentor from state service: over the last three months, I have been taking on a lot of the tasks of the State-Federal Relations Coordinator and minding the federal consistency review shop while the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) has been hiring my mentor’s replacement.     

Though it has been unfortunate I have not had as much time to dedicate specifically to the further development of tribal coordination procedures, I’ve been leaning into the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a federal consistency review.  I thought I had a decent grasp, but I’ve found I was just scratching the surface.  (hubris!)  With my new appreciation for the complexity of the position and requirements of a federal consistency review, I feel better positioned to generate procedures that will work for the next Coordinator. 

For example, being in the Coordinator’s shoes has really underlined the importance of developing effective, clear, and fairly simple procedures for involving the tribes.  The reality of the position (and, really, I think this is true for lots of dynamic/ high-tempo professions) is that things sometimes have to fall off the plate.  Therefore, procedures have to be realistic and mindful of varying levels of bandwidth for them to outlast their creator.  So, I have been thinking quite a bit about where I can create efficiencies – generating message templates, simplifying methods to identify who needs to be contacted, and updating checklists that help the Coordinator track where they are in the process.  My appreciation for reasonable and sustainable processes is a common theme throughout my professional career so far, and has probably already come up in a previous blog post…

In other news, I am really happy to report that a major component of my main project has been able to continue during these last months.  Working with one of my Tribal advisors and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), I have been developing a proposal to add more policies related to archaeological resources into the suite of policies that are considered during a federal consistency review.  Policies must meet certain criteria to be called “enforceable” and be approved by NOAA for inclusion in a coastal management program.  Enforceable policies are the backbone of a federal consistency review – federal permit applicants and federal agencies proposing actions must make a statement that they believe their project is consistent with these policies. The OCMP then concurs, concurs with conditions, or object to the applicant’s determination that their project is consistent based on our independent review and the input of our network partners

For this reason, the inclusion of these additional enforceable policies of importance to the Tribes is a substantial step forward in emphasizing the OCMP’s commitment to the protection of archaeological resources.  I am currently developing letters to distribute to the Tribal Councils to provide notification about the change, discuss the significance, explain the implementation process, and request their feedback.  This is a months-long process that will very likely outlast my tenure with the OCMP, so I am excited to get it moving! 

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.