Can David and Goliath get along? Federal land in local places

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11 Scopus citations


It is often unclear what the role of a local jurisdiction is with regard to land use management on nearby federal properties. Yet federal lands clearly impact nearby local communities. The US Department of Energy (DOE), with over 100 sites across the United States with varying degrees of environmental contamination, may be in a very difficult position with regard to relationships with local government about land use. Yet few, if any, studies have examined DOE land use issues. This study asks: (1) In general, how do local planners feel about federal government relationships with them? (2) Do local planners feel differently about the DOE than they do about other federal agencies? (3) What reasons explain any differences observed in answer to the second question? To answer these questions, local planners were interviewed from communities adjacent to non-DOE federal properties, and their responses compared to those of planners located near DOE facilities in the same regions. Findings showed that compared to other federal agencies that own land in the same regions, the DOE is relatively poorer at actively involving local officials in land use decisions at its sites. Primary reasons are the historic legacy of a culture of secrecy, focus on mission, and especially the lack of experience, training, or mandates in local planning cooperation. Findings also suggest that this attitude is markedly stronger in areas west of the Rocky Mountains. Recommendations for improved federal-local communications include the development of a vision for local government involvement that is supported by top levels of management and filtered effectively to the site level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-711
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


  • Federal land management
  • Federalism
  • Intergovernmental communication
  • Land use planning
  • Nuclear weapons sites


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