Saturday, January 3, 2009

Natural Resource Management

Consensus building can be applied in all kinds of natural resource management disputes. Even in the face of competing demands, contending stakeholders can reach agreement on how to proceed. With a help of a professional mediator, people or groups (including government agencies) can work out who should get what portion of the land, water, minerals, or forests and for what purposes. They can do this in a way that takes account of legally-mandated rights and regulations as well as radically different needs and values. Their task is to come up with a way of guaranteeing everyone something better than what they would most likely end up with if they took the battle to court or into the political arena.  Sometimes (voluntary) compensatory arrangements can make a difference.  Other times, what look like irreconcilable differences can be resolved by formulating new rules about when and how a resource can be used (for example, your group can use certain portions of the lake for sport fishing during specific weeks of the year while my group is guaranteed that there won't be any motorized vehicles on the water at other times or in other portions of the lake). Neither side "wins" in the sense that the other "loses," but both achieve their most important interests.  Sometimes the key is joint fact finding -- gathering believable information together. This can lead to entirely new problem-solving ideas that go beyond existing laws or practices.  To see how this actually works look at the web site of the MIT-USGS Science Impact Collaborative (  Also, see Susskind et. al, Negotiating Environmental Agreements, Island Press, 1999 for more examples and theoretical background.  


Post a Comment