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The Edge in BriefChallenging Issue: Collaboration vs. Cooptation (Part III): Michael McCloskey and Bill Leach Discuss Bill's Research on Devolution
Former Sierra Club chairman Michael McCloskey has reviewed a new report, “Is Devolution Democratic? Assessing Collaborative Environmental Management,” by William Leach at the Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP), California State University, Sacramento. The report builds upon a 1996 essay by Mr. McCloskey, which launched a flurry of debate within the environmental community about whether consensus-based stakeholder negotiations are in the best interest of environmental organizations, the values they seek to protect, and democracy itself. The CCP report purports to be the first attempt to empirically evaluate the arguments against collaboration, using a large quantitative study of watershed partnerships in the West. Click here to view Mr. McCloskey's review of “Is Devolution Democratic?” and a response by Mr. Leach.
The two previous articles in this series on Collaboration vs. Cooptation as well as the full text of “Is Devolution Democratic” are also available online:
- Full text report: Is Devolution Democratic? Assessing Collaborative Environmental Management
- Challenging Issue: Collaboration vs. Cooptation? (Part I)
- Challenging Issue: Collaboration vs. Cooptation? (Part II): Devolution of Environmental Management
The question often arises in public input processes—how do you allow for inclusive, participatory input from the general public AND get the benefit of expert or specialized public knowledge without one type of input excluding the other? Mediator and facilitator Dave Ceppos had to wrestle with this question during the public input process for the expansion of the California Department of Fish and Game’s Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area outside of Sacramento, California. In this article, Dave discusses the series of focused interest group meetings he organized as a compliment to—not a replacement of—broad-based “public scoping” meetings that were held as part of environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). He argues that this type of focused, quasi-public meeting is an appropriate and beneficial parallel track of public input to inform decision-making. Read about Dave’s experience here.Toolkit: The Four Domains: A Practical Tool for Incorporating Environmental Justice in Decision-Making
Environmental Justice is an important concept for decision-makers, not only because it is legally mandated in many cases, but also because, as Ken McGhee puts it, it is “the right thing to do.” In this article, Ken, the Environmental Justice Coordinator for the California Bay-Delta Authority, discusses how a tool called the Four Domains of Environmental Justice has helped him to operationalize the “how-to” of environmental justice. Read Ken’s insights and explanation of the Four Domains here.Book Review: Collaborative Public Management: New Strategies for Local Government
In this edition of the Edge, Richard Margerum, assistant professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon, reviews Robert Agranoff and Michael McGuire’s 2003 contribution to the understanding of collaborative public management. Margerum concludes that this book will be useful to researchers for its helpful categorizations and frameworks, while practitioners will get value from the case studies, practical examples, and discussion of tools and methods. To read Margerum’s review, click here.News and Events
Find out about upcoming conferences, training, and events of interest to the collaborative policy community. Link to the Edge News by clicking here.Resources
In this section of the Edge, you’ll find links to publications and websites that may be of use to you in planning and conducting your own collaborative efforts: Articles, manuals, case study databases, contacts, tools, tips, models, and more. Visit the Edge Resources Section.New! Resources Archive
The Edge is pleased to announce the development of its Resources Archive which is a compilation of online Resources from all issues of the Collaborative Edge. Resources are sorted into three categories.
- Community and Organizations: Focused on the issues and methods of primary interest to communities and organizations, including citizens, non-profits, and businesses. This category includes resources on civic engagement, deliberative democracy, environmental justice, building leadership capacity, and forming collaborative partnerships.
- Public Agencies and Government: Targeted to people who have some authority over public resources, and who are working collaboratively with their stakeholders to solve problems. This category includes public policy consensus-building, public participation, and understanding policy conflict.
- General Toolbox: Focused on practical tips and tools for those working in any sector on mediation, facilitation, dialogue, and collaborative process design.
Full Text Articles
Twice before, the Edge has carried articles on the potential drawbacks of collaboration. In the Spring / Summer 2003 (April) edition, we discussed some of the general critiques of environmental collaborative processes. One author whom we referenced in that article was Michael McCloskey, former chairman of the Sierra Club. Then in Fall of 2003 (September), Bill Leach wrote an article for the Edge summarizing the results of his research report Is Devolution Democratic? Assessing Collaborative Environmental Management based on data from 76 watershed partnerships in California and Washington. In that Fall 2003 Edge article, Bill discussed what the data showed in relation to some of the concerns raised by McCloskey and others. In this edition of the Edge, we are fortunate to bring you Michael McCloskey's critique of Is Devolution Democratic?, and Bill's response to those comments.
“What We Have Learned from William Leach's Study of 76 Collaborative Watershed Projects in California and Washington”
By Michael McCloskey
In his recent assessment of the fairness of the collaborative technique as it was used in 76 watersheds in California and Washington, William Leach paints a generally positive picture. He thought the sessions in them were productive, balanced, fair, competitive, and did not displace government authorities. In short, he thought that the case that critics, such as me, have made in questioning the technique is unproven. Is that true?
Instead, I believe that Leach has chosen to study the wrong exercises and in the wrong places. I am worried about using these exercises to manage public lands where a public agency has all the authority it needs to manage. I do not believe in displacing their authority or putting clouds on it.
However, watersheds represent an unusual case where no one agency has enough authority to resolve vexing problems. Agencies do have fragments of authority over various aspects of the resource there, but there is a gap in needed authorities. In these cases, I agree that is useful to bring all of the interested agencies together with stakeholders to see whether they can devise some way to make progress.
It is also notable that even the author characterizes these watershed efforts as providing a forum for getting staff from responsible agencies together with affected parties, and he admits that the upshot of these collaborations is not legally binding. If it is not, then it amounts to providing advice, and these efforts really constitute merely mechanisms for providing advice. I have no objection to using these techniques to provide advice, and doing so in a selective manner, provided they are properly organized.*
However, those who are promoting these techniques are often obscure about whether they are using them to simply provide advice to agencies, whether they hope to dominate these public agencies, or whether they hope to displace or delegitimate them. They clearly hope at the very least to arrange a situation where agencies must at least agree to adopt the agreements from these collaborative sessions.
I also did not read the findings of Doug Kenney's wider study as showing that the agreements stemming from such efforts were usually put into effect, as did Leach. Kenney defined success for such sessions as reaching agreement among the parties, not that their agreements had been adopted and put into effect by agencies. I think the jury is still out on whether these collaborative efforts are making any difference on the ground. It is still not clear whether any real world change in the condition of natural resources is attributable to these efforts.
* Also I have no objection to using these techniques to resolve long-standing disputes, nor to undertake what I would characterize as cooperative improvement projects, where land owners get together with interested parties to agree on physical improvements to a natural feature, and they have the resource and authority to make them.
It is clear to me that these collaborative exercises do build trust, social capital, and educate their participants. It is also unproven that these useful results spread much beyond the participants. I also agree that the people with the best access to current information tend to dominate them.
It is also far from clear that the exercises studied by Leach were as well handled as the author wants to believe. While he does report shortcomings, he focuses on the findings that support his point of view. If the shortcomings are featured instead, a more disquieting picture emerges.
In as many as half the collaborative projects studied, implementation was not secured, and this probably means that they did not even reach a measure of agreement (if the pattern in Kenney's study is repeated here, which is not clear).
Almost half of the participants (i.e., 46%) complained that critical interests were not effectively represented, thus meaning that panels were not properly balanced. In a third of the cases, the participants were hand picked, possibly leaving out critical stakeholders. Many thought that the panels were designed to address simply local concerns, not those of the broader public.
More than a third (i.e., 36%) of those surveyed felt that the process did not treat all parties fairly and consistently. This is a very high degree of dissatisfaction.
The study did find that resource users (i.e., people with businesses) were the largest single group represented. He also found minimal representation by national environmental organizations.
While environmentalists from the locality were represented, a number of points emerged. Generally these local environmentalists did not have the training, expertise, and experience that staff from national organizations typically bring to the cases on which they work. Moreover, these local environmentalists were the only ones participating in a capacity outside of their business or their paid work. Self-employed farmers did participate, but they were undoubtedly doing so to protect their business interests and did not operate outside the framework of their business interests.
While the author makes much of the fact that some staff from government agencies shared many views with environmentalists in terms of broad sympathies and outlooks, and thus were potential allies, he failed to recognize that this did not necessarily allow them to act outside the constraints of the roles they were playing. Moreover, some of the staff of agencies (i.e., resource development ones) had more in common with business interests.
And the author did not really grapple with the fact that the great bulk of the constituency of national environmental organizations lives in the major urban centers. Because of the larger pool of people in urban areas, a larger number of people in absolute terms who live there are likely to have professional skills that would enable them to play more effective roles in collaborative projects, and this applies to the non-staff members of national environmental organizations who live there. However, their professional commitments rarely allow them to spend the time that others can devote to these time-consuming exercises. If they did travel to these meetings, which are often at a considerable distance, it is likely that their travel times would be similar to that of agency staff, who are paid and reimbursed for the time they spend coming to these meetings. They are thereby disadvantaged and effectively disenfranchised.
Finally, it is notable that few of the participants were members of the general public (only 4%) and unaffiliated. This finding undermines any claim that these forums have some larger civic importance.
The author uses terms which have precise meanings in political science in questionable ways. He thinks self-chosen panels of participants can be characterized as a form of “direct democracy.” But direct democracy is a term which refers to plebiscites, or votes by the affected public on a ballot proposition, not various collaborative processes.
He also provides no legal analysis when he asserts that these various collaborative processes have been lawful. For instance, he does not inquire into whether agencies have violated FACA, the law which governs public meetings by federal agency staff, or whether they have been pressed to improperly delegate their authority to collaborative panels. The fact that agencies may have been influential in these panels sheds no light on these real questions of lawful behavior.
Moreover, the author's comments seem to reflect agreement with conservative political players, and they raise questions about his objectivity. At the outset of his research report (paragraph 2), he characterizes these collaborative exercises as a departure from “top-down, command and control regulation.” Thereby in a backhanded way he associates himself with the rhetoric customarily used by conservative politicians. While he casts his introductory analysis in terms of a dialogue between contrasting positions, he then seems to reach judgments of his own on the merits. For instance, he seems to believe that the case against devolution as a political goal can be answered by assuring us that the process of decision-making is procedurally fair, instead of acknowledging that those who argue against it would contend that it is empowering people at the wrong level to make decisions. Also in identifying the work of Daniel Kemmis with Jeffersonian democracy, he lends credence to a writer who pushes the idea of Charter Forests, which is a proposal to hand over the management of national forests to state and local collaboratives. Finally, in recommending “flexibility” as a goal in EPA's regulation, he is endorsing a principal objective of industry which wants EPA to turn away from technology-based controls to control pollution. He calls for minimizing hardship on industry, rather than minimizing hardship on the environment.
While the author is entitled to his opinions, he seems to be revealing points of view that will not reassure environmentalists about where this enthusiasm for collaboration is coming from.
The author purports to be seeking to allay concerns over whether these collaborative exercises are a device to co-opt the authority of government agencies, particularly federal agencies. If he really wants to do that, he should take a close look at exercises that have dealt with federal agencies which manage public lands. And he should do so in more conservative states in the Rocky Mountains, such as Wyoming and Idaho, where more people may be interested in co-optation. He should also look at cases in rural states dealing with issues regulated by EPA. Then, we might really learn something.
While I have not objected to watershed collaboratives, and feel that many of them are really cooperative improvement projects, his findings for California and Washington are hardly reassuring. Even here major improvements are needed.
* * *
J. Michael McCloskey is a former Chairman of the Sierra Club and has a long history of conservation leadership. He worked for the Sierra Club for forty years, also serving as its Executive Director and Conservation Director. In addition, he has been the Chairman of the Natural Resources Council of America, the Mineral Policy Center, and the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs. He is currently working as an environmental consultant from his home in Portland, Oregon, where he is also working on his memoirs. His seminal 1996 essay “The skeptic: Collaboration has its limits” launched a flurry of debate within the environmental community about whether consensus-based stakeholder negotiations are in the best interest of environmental organizations, the values they seek to protect, and democracy itself.
Response to Michael McCloskey's Commentary on Is Devolution Democratic?
By Bill Leach
I am grateful to Michael McCloskey for turning his critical eye upon the research report Is Devolution Democratic? His commentary recounts a number of the study's limitations that were disclaimed in the report such as (1) the likelihood that findings from California and Washington would not apply to other states, (2) that the available measures of “lawfulness” were far from comprehensive, (3) that some of the study's findings contradict the general conclusion that “the overall picture is relatively positive,” and (4) that the report only assesses the democratic merits of partnerships, not their effectiveness in terms of ultimate outcomes, such as enhanced environmental quality. I agree with Mr. McCloskey that “the jury is still out” on outcomes, and applaud those who are working in this area, such as Connick and Innes (2003) to name just one example.
Mr. McCloskey's commentary also makes several important points that were overlooked in the report, and bear repeating. One is that a study of watershed collaboratives would reach different conclusions than a study of other types of collaboratives, such as those focusing exclusively on public lands management. Another is the subjective nature of how some of the findings are interpreted in the report. For example, I apparently took comfort in the fact that almost two-thirds of those surveyed were satisfied with the procedural fairness of their partnership; looking at the same data, Mr. McCloskey was dismayed to learn that 36% were either neutral or dissatisfied.
Another point worth repeating is that collaboration is not appropriate in all collective decisionmaking contexts. Many scholars and practitioners are engaged in trying to understand when they are appropriate and when not. I was particularly interested to learn that Mr. McCloskey generally endorses collaboration in the context of watershed management, where land ownership and decision-making authority are diffuse, so long as the goal is to cooperate on resource improvement projects or provide advice to government agencies, but not to force agencies to submit to the will of other stakeholders. Similarly, it is noteworthy to see Mr. McCloskey express confidence in the ability of collaboration to build trust, social capital, and educate participants—especially after casting doubt on these claims in earlier essays (McCloskey 2000).
Several of Mr. McCloskey's critiques pertain to the introductory section of the report, which proposes a six-part framework for evaluating the democratic merits of collaborative processes. The premise behind the framework is that poorly designed collaboratives run the risk of violating democratic principles, whereas, at least in theory, well designed collaboratives could conform to democratic ideals. My hope was that the framework would help structure the empirical assessment in the second part of the report, and that it might also help stakeholders and professional facilitators design collaborative processes that are as democratic as possible.
To introduce the framework (reproduced in Figure 1), I first sought to describe each criterion by surveying the literature for relevant illustrations of the promises and pitfalls of collaboration. Second, I sought to make a normative argument for the importance of including each criterion in the framework, recognizing that the choice is subjective, and that other authors might prefer to omit one or more criteria or suggest additional ones.
FIGURE 1. Framework for Evaluating the Democratic Merits of Collaborative Policymaking Processes.
Inclusiveness. An inclusive process places few formal restrictions on participation.
Representativeness. A representative process ensures that the interests of all affected individuals are effectively advocated, either in person or through proxies.
Procedural Fairness. A fair process treats all parties equally and respectfully, gives each party an appropriate degree of voice and influence, and establishes clear procedures for collective decisionmaking.
Lawfulness. A lawful process seeks to uphold the letter and spirit of all existing laws and regulations.
Deliberativeness. A deliberative process allows participants to brainstorm, examine each other's assumptions, identify common interests, build a shared knowledge base, and develop mutual trust and empathy.
Empowerment. An empowered process enables participants to influence the decisions of elected officials or public administrators.
In critiquing the exposition of the framework, Mr. McCloskey could have commented on whether I chose the wrong criteria or failed to provide a balanced review of the promises and pitfalls. Curiously, he instead chose to question my objectivity and speculate about my political leanings.
For example, he objects to the phrases “top-down” and “command-and-control regulation” as conservative rhetoric. However, these are common terms of art without pejorative connotation with political science departments and regulatory agencies such as EPA (e.g. http://www.epa.gov/trs/).
He claims the report fails to acknowledge critics who believe collaboration “empowers people at the wrong level to make decisions.” In fact, the report quotes George Coggins (1999) at length on precisely this argument, and concludes that “collaborative policymaking is consistent with democratic ideals only to the extent that participating government agencies use collaboration as a means to more effectively or efficiently execute their legislative mandates, which ostensibly represent the will of the people as interpreted by their elected representatives.”
He says that I “recommend flexibility” and thereby align myself with industry. Flexibility is in fact discussed in a paragraph that alludes to its potential benefits so long as it entails “upholding state and federal standards,” but the paragraph devotes much more space to recounting the pitfalls of flexibility and cooptation.
He suggests that by citing Daniel Kemmis (1990), I lend credence to Kemmis's (2001) Charter Forests proposal to shift management responsibilities for national forests to state and local collaborative groups (a proposal of which I was unaware). However, the same paragraph also cites Doug Kenney, one of the most outspoken critics of collaboration. And of the 50 publications cited in the report, none is cited as repeatedly as McCloskey's seminal 1996 piece in High Country News. I did not intend to privilege any one author above another, or to endorse policy proposals they may have advocated in books I've not yet read.
Although Is Devolution Democratic? will certainly not be the final word on the democratic merits of collaborative policy making, I hope most readers will welcome the report as a sincere attempt to help structure and inform a debate that has otherwise lacked the benefit of quantitative empirical research.
* * *
Dr. Bill Leach is Research Director at the Center for Collaborative Policy. As part of the same study underlying Is Devolution Democratic? he has published two of the more critical assessments of the conflict-resolution profession including “Facilitators, Coordinators, and Outcomes” with Paul Sabatier in The Promise and Performance of Environmental Conflict Resolution, edited by Rosemary O'Leary and Lisa Bingham (RFF Press, 2003), and “Surveying Diverse Stakeholder Groups” in Society and Natural Resources, 15(7, August): 641-649, 2002. His most recent research, regarding water quality management on dairies in Northern California, shows that classic regulatory enforcement tools, such as fines and injunctions, are an important complement to more collaborative tools, such as education programs, economic incentives, and policy dialogues involving dairymen, advocacy groups, and regulators.
Coggins, George C. 1999. “Regulating federal natural resources: A summary case against devolved collaboration.” Ecology Law Quarterly 25 (4):602-610.
Connick, Sarah and Judith E. Innes. 2003. “Outcomes of collaborative water policy making: Applying complexity thinking to evaluation.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 46(2): 177–197.
Kemmis, Daniel. 2001. This Sovereign Land : A New Vision for Governing the West (Washington DC : Island Press).
McCloskey, Michael. 1996. “The Skeptic: Collaboration has its limits.” High Country News 28 (May 13).
McCloskey, Michael. 2000. “Problems with using collaboration to shape environmental public policy.” Valparaiso University Law Review 34 (2):423-434.
By Dave Ceppos
Introduction: When Going By the Book Isn’t Enough
For better (and sometimes worse), the State of California has a law entitled the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Similar to its federal analog and predecessor, the National Environmental Policy Act, CEQA represents a legitimate attempt to allow for and encourage public discourse on environmental impacts of proposed projects. At its core CEQA is a combination of a public disclosure law and a decision-making tool, with the goal of ensuring that agency projects are well informed and environmentally sound.
However, the methods of public discourse required by CEQA are sometimes insufficient to get the type of input needed to make a project really work on the ground—that is, to ensure that the project truly accomplishes the purpose and need for which it was pursued, and the project is truly responsive to community concerns. This article outlines initial CEQA public process and offers an example of how additional alternative methods of focused public discourse were used to improve the CEQA process in one particular case: the expansion of the California Department of Fish and Game’s Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area outside of Sacramento, California.
California Environmental Quality Act
CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions on a proposed “project” and to avoid or mitigate those impacts. A project is an activity undertaken by a public agency, or a private activity that must receive some discretionary approval from a government agency (meaning that the agency has the authority to deny the requested permit or approval). The project must be assessed to determine if a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment might occur as a result of the project.
While the intent and most guiding policies of CEQA are fairly explicit, one area where specific guidance is lacking is the methods and formats through which a project proponent engages the public. In some cases, CEQA requires “public scoping” at the beginning of a project, and additional public meetings at the middle and end to present draft and final project alternatives for public review and discussion. In public scoping, a project proponent is required to provide the public a chance to discuss the issues and concerns they want addressed in the subsequent CEQA process. More specifically, an agency is generally expected to come to a Public Scoping meeting with a preliminary set of “issues” already identified by the agency as a starting place for public discussion. These issues are not intended to be exhaustive, complete, or final, but rather a place of departure in public comment.
While public scoping offers an equitable opportunity for public discourse, there are limitations (as in all gatherings subject to public meeting laws) to the level of focused dialogue that can occur. Inherent in public meeting laws and in generally accepted meeting facilitation practice is the premise that meetings should be publicized equitably and that all participants should have an equal opportunity for participation, regardless of their specific knowledge, experience or sophistication on an issue.
Without question, CEQA public scoping is a necessary, appropriate venue for public input. But is this the best approach to get substantive, issues-driven public input on a CEQA project? Is there another equally appropriate way for a project proponent to get focused input that is additive to, supportive of, but more focused than information acquired in public scoping?
These questions provided the basis for a set of focused public meetings held in the fall of 2002 regarding the proposed expansion of the California Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (Wildlife Area). These meetings were held in addition to, not instead of, the normal CEQA public process.
Case Background: The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
The Yolo Bypass is a 50,000-acre, 40-mile long flood bypass feature of the Federal and State Sacramento River Flood Control Project (FCP). The FCP is the extensive system of levees, reservoirs, floodways, flood bypasses, flood relief structures, weirs, and spillways that exist throughout the lower Sacramento River Valley as a means to limit catastrophic flooding and manage high flow events from the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River system (including its tributaries) is renowned for the volume of water that can move downstream during a flood event. During the winter months, extensive snow pack in the Sierra Nevada can be melted by precipitation from massive Pacific storms that distribute rain to the Coastal Ranges to the west, and Sierra Nevada to the east. The combination of snow melt and precipitation results in exceptionally high flows that historically overtopped the banks and natural, levee-like features of the Sacramento River, flooding the surrounding valley lands in a manner that has historically been referred to as “the Inland Sea.” Naturally occurring “bypasses” helped funnel excess water downstream when these floods occurred.
In the early 1900s, these bypasses were structurally modified as part of the FCP to continue their flood management role, albeit in an engineered, man-made system. The Yolo Bypass is perhaps the most critical component of the FCP in that as the most downstream feature of the FCP, it can pose a limiting factor to the efficacy of the other upstream pieces of the FCP. In short, during a major flow event in the Sacramento River Valley, if the Bypass does not efficiently move flood waters through the region, the rest of the upstream river system can back up and threaten to overtop, undercut or otherwise negatively impact flood protection levees and associated structures.
Once the Bypass was constructed in approximately 1914, landowners were allowed the option to continue the use of their land providing they entered into flowage easement agreements with the State of California. These easements resulted in one-time payments to landowners in exchange for the perpetual right of the state to flow water over Bypass lands at any time during the year. The easements prohibited building any structures, levees, or other facilities in the Bypass, as well as prohibiting the planting of any vegetation crops such as orchards, vineyards, or other items that would impede flood flows. The result of these easements is that limited land uses are feasible in the Bypass, such as agricultural row crops, grazing, and managed wetland habitats for private waterfowl hunting clubs.
The 3,700-acre Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area was created in the mid 1990s, a result of a multi-agency and conservation group partnership to purchase private lands and create a premier habitat restoration site in the Sacramento Valley. The Valley is a critical part of the Pacific Flyway for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors and it was believed that a restoration site of significant size could offer great improvements to avian populations in the region. At the time of its creation, the Wildlife Area was the largest wetland restoration site in U.S history. This honor has since been eclipsed by efforts in the Florida Everglades, Louisiana Bayou, and South San Francisco Salt Ponds Restoration efforts. The Wildlife Area is located in the lower portion of the Bypass, just south of the I-80 causeway over the Bypass.
An Alternative Approach
In December 2001, the California State Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) purchased 12,808 more acres of Bypass land from the Glide Trust and Los Rios Farms with the intent of these lands becoming part of an expanded Wildlife Area. This decision was not without controversy. Many private and local government representatives in and near Yolo County were concerned about the ability of WCB to exert powerful, state-funded purchasing influence on such a large area of land without conducting CEQA analysis to justify the necessity of the purchase. In truth, WCB and DFG policy has always been to conduct such purchases and to then conduct CEQA analysis afterwards. This was a particularly sensitive issue in the Bypass land purchase because the sellers had established non-negotiable confidentiality constraints prohibiting the State (and any other prospective buyers) from pursuing public discourse about any aspects of the sale. This conflict has been observed in many other prospective land purchases by State agencies that seek to preserve and protect sensitive lands in a manner that balances State public disclosure laws with private interests seeking confidential proceedings. This conflict is not easily reconciled.
Recognizing that the only way the Bypass purchase could occur was to abide by the private seller constraints, the State nonetheless sought proactively to ameliorate the previously described concerns about the lack of adequate public discussion about the purchase. DFG realized that they were still many months away from initiating a CEQA process but that there was an immediate and compelling need for public discussion. People had questions about how the land would be used once it was in state ownership. Would farming and grazing practices continue on the land, or be restricted or eliminated? Would hunting be allowed, and if so, would hunters be able to access popular locations? What kind of endangered species protections would be put in place? What if any kind of habitat restoration was envisioned? Would such restoration impact the delicate flood management balance of the Bypass? Were there important cultural resources on the newly acquired land and how would they be found, cataloged and protected? Would the property be turned into a “hands-off” nature preserve?
Working with DFG and the Yolo Basin Foundation (YBF), a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that has long-standing ties to the creation and perpetuation of the DFG Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, I proposed an approach to achieving this much-needed public discussion. My suggestions were underpinned by my belief that CEQA public scoping is an excellent venue to access diverse public sentiment on a topic but is an ineffective and inefficient method to access focused, experienced discussion on critical technical topic areas. I asked if it could be possible for YBF (as an interested but non-governmental organization) to sponsor a series of meetings to discuss the future use of the land purchased by the State. More specifically, we assessed if it was feasible and appropriate for an NGO like YBF to have management-specific discussions related to future use of the lands purchased by the state. The answer was yes, focused discussions could be a very useful pre-CEQA step in engaging the public.
We designed these discussions to be tailored to specific, knowledgeable stakeholders so that the content and results could help DFG frame their initial set of project concepts that they would eventually present at CEQA public scoping meetings. The proposed meetings would be open to the public but focused to get the opinions of invited groups of stakeholders who would be asked to attend specific, topical meetings for their discrete expertise. The YBF had fostered relationships with literally hundreds of stakeholders interested in a variety of Bypass issues. Many of these stakeholders offer substantive expertise in a variety of topic areas related to the functions, management, land uses, and economics of the Bypass. This large set of stakeholders offers YBF and DFG (through their partnered relationship regarding the Wildlife Area) an enviable pool of stakeholders to obtain public insights about the Bypass.
The topic areas proposed for the meetings included: Hydrology and Hydraulics (related to flood management of the Bypass), Agriculture, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Viewing and Environmental Education, Fisheries (i.e. a technical discussion of management of aquatic resources to encourage reproduction of threatened and endangered species), and Hunting and Fishing. DFG would participate as an equal stakeholder in these topical meetings but would not have primacy over the discussion and would not in anyway portray the meetings as an initiation of the CEQA process. The goal of these focused meetings was to allow knowledgeable and concerned stakeholders an opportunity to rapidly (relative to the recent State purchase of the land) voice their concerns, ideas, hopes, etc about the future management of the land but to do so in a context of related expertise, apart from the broader future CEQA public discussions.
During the fall of 2002, the six focused meeting took place. Some of these meetings included field visits by the participants to view conditions in the recently acquired lands. Each meeting was attended by more than 20 participants, most of whom were experts in their field. The results of the meetings were extraordinary and simply could not have been achieved through a traditional CEQA scoping process. The meetings took the form of “think tanks” with participants brainstorming extensive ideas about the acquired lands, raising concerns about current and future conditions, and generally engaging in focused discussion, unencumbered by other stakeholders with less knowledge about the topic or physical area. The information derived from the meetings was invaluable in providing creative considerations for future Wildlife Area planning discussions. The concerns raised by the “select” participants can and will be used by DFG to construct their “issue statements" for future CEQA scoping.
As a participant in the non-CEQA focused meetings, DFG was an equal recipient of the extensive discussions (and subsequent meeting summaries) that will form the basis for their preliminary issue statements. The meetings expedited and improved the quality of content for the subsequent scoping effort.
Any final analysis of the approach taken in these focused meetings must include a discussion of the ethical merits of “public” meetings held with selected specialists. While the meetings were technically public, they were not heavily advertised. There was a concerted effort to allow for but not encourage broader public involvement. Was that appropriate? I strongly believe that it was and is. In time, DFG will hold true public scoping meetings. The responsibility of public agencies is to allow for public debate, discourse, and access regarding agency actions. An agency should never allow themselves to be unduly influenced to the point of a decision by select stakeholders.
However, an agency should have the right and I believe has the responsibility to make the best use of appropriate, diverse specialists as a means to inform their analytical, and decision-making process. The opinions of all stakeholders are equal. The insights that different stakeholders bring are not equal and we should not pretend that they are. The responsibility of an agency is to find the value of each publicly derived comment and then to use that value appropriately. A person with little to no knowledge of an issue undoubtedly has a valuable contribution to make to public discourse about an agency action. Whether or not that person’s contributions should supersede the opinions (diverse or uniform) of specialists in a field is another matter entirely. In the case of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, public scoping meetings will take place in accordance with the law and good public policy. These public scooping meetings will have been informed by six, focused meetings of highly qualified specialists and will allow for the accurate, development of project issues and a robust, meaningful and informed discussion by the broader public. The cumulative total of all these activities will be an informed decision-making agency with fully formed universe of data and opinions from which they will take a discretionary action in the future. And, in my opinion, that is as it should be.
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Dave Ceppos is a facilitator and mediator with the Center for Collaborative Policy. He specializes in developing consensus-based, stakeholder-driven, resource management processes involving agricultural, environmental, and urban water users; resource trustee agencies; flood control organizations; military services, and similar interests. He additionally has management and field experience in watershed planning, ecological assessment, hydrology, hazardous waste management, and habitat restoration.
By Ken McGhee
Environmental Justice, or EJ as it is more affectionately known, is a simple concept that is on the one hand understood as just doing the right thing. Upon further review, however, EJ is a term that defies widespread acceptance and understanding. Questions abound over what does EJ really mean. Does EJ apply to all of us, or only to those who are members of low-income, disadvantaged or minority communities? Is EJ an unfunded mandate that suggests how we should live together, or is it a concept embedded in our laws that should govern how environmental decisions are made? Does EJ stop actions or does it strengthen actions? These are some of the more pressing and provocative questions about WHEN and WHY to apply EJ concepts that this article will not attempt to answer. What I will focus on is HOW to incorporate EJ into a decision-making process.
EJ is a concept that came to national attention in the early 1980s when activists asserted that environmental hazards such as toxic waste sites and incinerators were too frequently located in low-income and minority communities. After numerous studies confirmed that minorities and low-income populations were indeed more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards at home and in the workplace, the idea of Environmental Justice became enshrined in Federal policy. In 1994, Federal Executive Order 12898 mandated that Federal agencies shall achieve environmental justice by “Identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.”
State and local agencies in the US are not bound by the Federal Executive order, yet many state and local governments have chosen to enact their own version of EJ. For example, California, along with several other states, has basically followed the guidance established in federal law. California’s EJ policy states that agencies should identify and address disproportionate environmental impacts, and they are expected to foster non-discrimination and to encourage greater opportunities for inclusion of minority populations and low-income communities. California’s definition of EJ differs from the Federal Executive Order in one important way. The Golden State says that EJ applies to ALL races, cultures and incomes in its application.
Several years ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, came up with a tool to better understand how EJ might apply to a given circumstance. This tool, known as the four domains of EJ, was used originally to help EPA program managers and planners determine whether an issue as an “EJ issue” or whether a community was an “EJ Community.”
The four domains, like the concept of EJ itself, are not challenging to grasp on their own. They are steeped in common sense notions of what is right, yet still subject to some debate over how they might apply to a given set of facts. The domains are:
1) Knowing the community
2) Understanding the disproportionate impacts on that community
3) Having a dialogue on the benefits and burdens on that community
4) Engaging in a meaningful public involvement process
Use of this tool was triggered by a proposed project or action that could potentially have adverse impacts on a community. The four domains outline important questions to ask in order to illuminate the four key concepts. The answers to the questions, if sought in a deliberate and structured manner, provided EPA with solid information about the community, the problems, the process, and the remedies. Along with the four domains, Region 8 developed a detailed chart of EJ questions the agency could ask and answer to better understand a potential EJ situation. EPA staff used the information they received using these two tools to make determinations on funding, resource allocation, program planning, and implementation of actions.
While Region 8 used the four domains for classification of communities and issues, my first exposure to the domains came at an EPA EJ training, early in my tenure as an EJ Coordinator for a state agency. During that training, the four domains were described as tools to not only classify situations but also to fundamentally understand how EJ works. The latter notion is what resonated strongly with me as I wondered how to begin my main statutory requirement, namely the integration of EJ throughout one state agency and its implementing partners. The most common question asked of me as an EJ practitioner is, “How do I apply or use EJ in my situation?” The four domains provide a significant part of that answer.
Since my experience with the four domains comes from my work on the “inside” of an agency, the perspective I choose to understand and apply the tool naturally came from the perspective of an agency insider. I had to think about how I could use this tool in my job to fulfill my responsibilities as an agency EJ Coordinator. The first important step to make the tool work for me was assigning a “lead” responsibility to each of the four domains—who was going to do the work to make this happen? While the agency has an important contribution to make in each domain, sometimes it has to share control with the community if EJ is going to work.
The first domain, knowing the community, is absolutely critical to assuring that the other three domains are even addressed. The agency or decision-making entity must take the lead on this domain. That entity must make real efforts to know and understand the community in question. This requires some commitment of time and resources to understand the current circumstance and historical legacy of the place that is potentially impacted by an agency’s proposed action. This often means committing to a series of meetings, forums or workshops in the community. In preparation for these community meetings and through the meetings themselves, the agency is seeking to understand demographic and historical data about the community, as well as traditions and other practices that are unique to that community. If an agency establishes credibility in this process, community leaders are sought out and made part of the process, and residents of a community see an agency coalescing around an issue, a healthier environment for dialogue is formed.
Moving to the second domain, understanding the disparate impacts in a community, the “lead” role shifts to the community. If goodwill has been established by the agencies’ willingness to get to know the people and the place, there is a greater likelihood that representatives of the community will openly share their concerns with the agency. This second domain is challenging because it brings out the “angry public,” often in ways that are uncomfortable and even painful for agency staff and public alike. This is the time when the public comes out in large numbers to say what is on their minds. In this phase, there is often a need to focus community concerns so that the right agencies are actually getting the information, and that conversely, so that the community representatives are bringing their complaints/concerns to the right sources.
After moving through the first two domains, several things could have occurred. The agency could have decided to rethink its plans and “go back to the drawing board” on the proposed action or project. The community could have decided that “making their case” to the agency was sufficient, and they are now content to let the action move forward. Both sides could have decided that more time and study are required and thus a “time out” becomes the next step. If any of those decisions were reached, they would likely be educated decisions based on what the process had revealed.
More likely however, is that the agency and community will want to keep moving forward with their own interests, mindful of the exchange that had taken place to date. At this point, they would engage in the third domain, a dialogue on the benefits and burdens from the proposed action. Here, the “lead” role should be shared by agency and community representatives. This is the time when the project is put on trial. Both sides marshal their best scientific, technical, and political arguments. The benefits are touted in the best light and the burdens are justified or eliminated. This domain is really where the decision-making can best occur. This is the time for collaborative processes to move to the forefront. Community panels, workshops, briefing sessions, and sometimes lengthy meetings are the best ways to address the benefits and burdens. Both sides can change their starting positions based on information garnered during the interactions as part of the first two domains. Honest and appropriate uses of science become important here as well. While questions of how to address scientific uncertainty and legacies of negative impacts must be addressed at this point, the process becomes less contentious when all sides have been engaging previously to understand each other’s community, history, and legacy.
The fourth and final domain is really better understood as a “wrap-around” concept that is part of the other three domains. None of this works if it is not part of a meaningful public process. There must be commitment to assessment of the issues, effective outreach and education, appropriate and effective (facilitated) meetings, resource allocation to support collaborative decision-making, and most importantly, a commitment to inclusive and participatory decision-making. This fourth domain needs to be understood and addressed at the outset so that before the first attempts at knowing the community even take place, discussions around the planning for the entire process from an agency and community perspective should occur. These can range from informal discussions among a few interested parties, to more formal proposals setting up a collaborative process around an EJ issue. This phase also requires that stakeholders have a role in determining what is meaningful public process. This means that the structure, logistics, and content of the meetings and other events within each domain are arrived at in an open and collaborative manner.
The four domains is a useful tool, but still only a tool. Agencies and communities must continue to explore new ways of working together if the dream of environmental justice is to be realized. The beauty of the four domains is in their simplicity and comprehensiveness. If applied correctly, this tool gets one well along the way to creating effective dialogue, building trust, and addressing issues. The four domains are a great starting point. In many cases, they can be the sine qua non for establishing a conceptual framework for problem identification and solution of entrenched issue—the types of issues that all too often are left unresolved and unchanged.
Ken McGhee is a Facilitator and Mediator with the Center for Collaborative Policy. Since November 2003, Ken has been on assignment as the Environmental Justice Coordinator for the California Bay-Delta Authority (CALFED) where he directs the Environmental Justice program. In this role he coordinates the Environmental Justice Subcommittee and integrates Environmental Justice principles and concepts in CALFED's various programs which focus on water supply reliability, levee system integrity, water quality, and ecosystem restoration.
Agranoff, Robert, and Michael McGuire. 2003. Collaborative public management: New strategies for local government. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press. 219 pp.
Reviewed by Richard D. Margerum
In Collaborative Public Management (2003 Georgetown University Press), Robert Agranoff and Michael McGuire examine the issue of collaboration through the lens of local economic development efforts. The book draws upon a survey of 237 cities in the Midwest, and case studies of six purposively selected cities: Cincinnati, Ohio; Beloit, Wisconsin; Garfield Heights, Ohio; Woodstock, Illinois; Salem, Indiana; and Ithica, Michigan.
The first two chapters of the book define collaboration and establish the theoretical context for collaborative management by drawing upon Agranoff and McGuire's cases, as well as the literature on coordination, organizational theory, and public policy. In the third chapter, the authors present a series of models of collaborative management, which are distinguished by their location along two dimensions: the collaborative activity level (active – inactive) and the collaborative strategy (passive – opportunistic). The result is six different models (see figure below) and hypothetical city examples: Jurisdiction-based, Donor-recipient, Top-down, Reactive, Contented and Abstinence. The remaining four chapters employ the survey data and case study examples to illustrate the six models of collaboration and draw out the practical implications of the findings.
The authors approach this text not from the standpoint that collaboration is more efficient or more effective, but rather that it is becoming the dominant activity of public management. This is a refreshing approach, because it allows the authors to consider collaboration from a more neutral perspective. The book also provides a rich set of empirical data and case study information that help support and explain their propositions. This results in a number of definitions and classifications that both researchers and practitioners will find helpful. For example, in their discussion of collaboration activities and strategies, they distinguish between vertical activities (those involving hierarchical relationships between two or more levels of government: federal, state, regional, local) and horizontal activities (involving a range of both public and private entities engaged in a local policy issue). They then classify the vertical activities according to whether they are “information seeking” or “adjustment seeking” and the horizontal activities according to whether they involve “resource exchange” or are “project based.” The result is a clearer distinction between activities such as technical assistance (information seeking) and policy changes (adjustment seeking). These kinds of frameworks and definitional improvements are important because of the range of activities that are lumped under the collaboration banner.
However, the book itself lumps a wide range of activities under collaborative management, some of which do not appear to fit under their own definition of the term. In fact, the models of collaborative management might be more appropriately called models of management. As a result, the boundaries between management and collaborative management are sometimes unclear. Furthermore, some of the terminology is awkward, such as “top-down cities” (cities dominated by vertical collaboration) and “jurisdiction-based cities” (cities dominated by horizontal collaboration), because they are easily confused with other public policy concepts.
In summary, the book provides an important contribution to the literature on collaboration. Researchers will find it useful for the categorizations and frameworks, which could provide an important basis for further empirical research. Practitioners–particularly those involved in economic development–will find the case study material, practical examples, and discussion of tools and mechanisms especially helpful.
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Richard D. Margerum is an assistant professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon. He has published extensively on collaborative approaches to environmental and land use management, focusing in particular on implementation issues.
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This section lists resources we have added since the last edition of the Edge. For an archive of resources compiled from all previous editions of the Edge, click here.
Consensual Democracy Website. Consensual Democracy is a sustainable, grassroots approach to civic renewal based on the visions, values and goals of local citizens. It organizes community members to work together through nonprofit civic associations that are independent of local government. Its website provides free tools and guides for community-building and civic assessment. http://www.consensualdemocracy.org/
Citizens and Governance Toolkit. The Commonwealth Foundation has produced a compact "Citizens and Governance Toolkit" as part of its project to promote increased citizens' participation in governance.
The toolkit provides summaries of specific governance processes and concrete ways they can be strengthened through new opportunities for citizen participation.
This is the first version of the Toolkit, and the Foundation plans to develop revised versions from time to time, incorporating additional material. The Foundation is looking for feedback about parts that are particularly useful as well as areas which could be expanded. To order the toolkit, contact Andrew Firmin, Program Officer at the Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.thecommonwealth.org/Templates/System/
The CyberHood's Library of Links. The CyberHood features an excellent gateway to Internet research that includes links to funding sources for community projects, websites for economic and community development practitioners, information on health and wellness issues, and cultural resources for communities of color. The CyberHood's mission is to build a virtual community where students, scholars, practitioners, and social activists, who want to change urban society and improve the plight of people of color, can find each other, share information, exchange ideas, and build professional relationships. Their goal is to build a community that encourages dialogue, facilitates research, and spawns joint ventures. Available at http://www.thecyberhood.net/Residents_enter_here/private/
Equitable Development Toolkit. PolicyLink has provided on single website a comprehensive set of policy options to advance economic and social equity. These tools are based on successful strategies developed in culturally diverse communities around the country. There are currently 23 different educational topics covered, including Brownfields, Minority Contracting, and Commercial Stabilization. Available at http://www.policylink.org/EDTK/default.html
Newsletter: Focus On Study Circles. Focus on Study Circles is the free newsletter of the Study Circles Resource Center. Each issue contains articles on topics such as how to build and sustain study circle programs, and the role of face-to-face public deliberation in creating an active and democratic public life. Focus also keeps study circle organizers connected to each other by posting announcements and updates from study circle programs across the country. For more information, visit http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/
Commentary: Gridlock Impossible at "Kitchen Table." Editorial by James E. Geringer and John Kitzhaber. James E. Geringer, a Republican, was governor of Wyoming from 1995 through 2003, and John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, was governor of Oregon from 1995 through 2002. They cochair the Policy Consensus Initiative and the National Policy Consensus Center. From the article: "What if, as a citizen, you were invited to a meeting and found yourself, not in an impersonal hearing room but at a conference table where work gets done. Imagine around this table some citizens, some representatives from industry, union people, farmers, environmental groups, and others affected by what happens along the coastline. Imagine the state official who called you together says that, instead of the government creating a plan that only some could live with, it is instead up to you. As a group you're to hammer out a solution. That's collaborative governance, and it feels much different from simply 'listening to the public.'" Available in the Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 23, 2004 edition, at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1223/p09s01-coop.html?s=hns
Guide for Public Outreach in Floodplain Planning. “Guidance Note No 2, Participatory Processes” is a concise framework of principles and mechanics of public outreach in floodplain planning. Provided by Wise Use of Floodplains, a project of the EU LIFE Environment Programme, it is one of a series of guidance notes to provide a starting point for thinking about the wise use of floodplains and floodplain restoration measures. Each guidance note is a summary of a detailed Technical Report. For more information on the floodplain planning guides, visit http://www.floodplains.org.uk/guidance_notes.htm
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict (OTPIC). The Conflict Research Consortium (University of Colorado) offers a set of materials and coursework related to conflict resolution. Theoretical and practical material discuss typical conflicts and potential solutions. This system provides a low-cost supplement or alternative to international travel-based training programs for disputants and third parties, and provides free online consulting to people who want quick answers to specific problems. For more information, visit http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/
Website: BeyondIntractability.org. The Conflict Research Consortium's new, next-generation website on intractable conflict reflects contributions from 100+ experts, 200+ essays on key topics, 55+ online interviews (70+ hours) and thousands of references. They are in the process of shifting their online courses to this much more extensive collection of material. Available at http://www.BeyondIntractability.org
Learning from Experience: A National Resource for Collaboration and Partnerships. Provided by the Ecosystem Management Initiative, Learning from Experience is a website of natural resource collaboration and partnership case studies and lessons that are designed to inform people engaged in all stages of partnerships, from simple partnerships to large watershed collaboratives. It features a detailed how-to Guide to the Stages of a Collaborative Process, tips on Dealing with Scientific and Technical Complexity, Back of the Envelope Advice, and much more. Available at http://www.snre.umich.edu/ecomgt//cases/
Newsletter: Link&Learn. Provided by Linkage Inc., Link&Learn is a free, monthly e-newsletter that offers case studies, best practices, and how-to articles on leading issues in the leadership, organizational development, knowledge management, mentoring, and performance management. For more information, visit http://www.linkageinc.com/newsletter/default.shtml
Planning Commissioner's Handbook Update. The Institute for Local Self Government has released the 2004 update of its Planning Commissioner's Handbook. It is designed to provide guidance on technical expertise, legal knowledge, and architectural sensibility for land use decision-making in California. The update has been reorganized and expanded to make it more convenient to use. Readers may be particularly interested in Section 3: Public Participation in Land Use Planning. For more information, visit http://www.cacities.org/index.jsp?zone=ilsg&previewStory=22028
Policies of Trust Network. Policies of Trust Network is a non-profit civic engagement enterprise and grassroots coalition committed to healing our social and political divisions and liberating our human potential through the radical recovery of trust. This summer, PTN will launch its on-line civic navigator, a multi-partisan informational resource and "political router" aimed at linking Californians to a broad range of civic engagement activities that promote a more humanistic, person-centered approach to public policy and political activism. Visit http://www.PoliticsofTrust.net
Downloadable Manual: Public Dialogue: A Tool for Citizen Engagement. By the Centre for Public Dialogue, this manual is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to the public dialogue process. It explains in detail how to conduct public dialogue sessions as well as issues of particular concern. The manual anchors public dialogue in a clear research methodology and analysis plan. For more information, visit http://www.cprn.org/en/doc.cfm?doc=118
Online Manual: Public Policy Consensus & Mediation: State of Maine Best Practices. Designed by the Maine Department of Labor for the State of Maine, the material is readable transferable to any collaborative project involving public agencies. It details the “7 Key Steps of a Collaborative Process,” from how to do internal agency and external stakeholder assessments to finalizing the agreement. http://www.maine.gov/consensus/ppcm_consensus_steps_01.htm
Toolkit Citizen Participation. The "Toolkit Citizen Participation" enjoys a new online presence which offers a database of case studies that demonstrate empowered participatory governance around the world. The Toolkit, which is a collaboration among several NGOs including Partners Foundation for Local Development (Romania), SNV Netherlands Development Organization, Center for Youth and Development (India), and the African Foundation for Integrated Development (Dakar) offers regular newsletters and an international network of scholars and practitioners. For more information, visit http://www.toolkitparticipation.nl/participants
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