Collaboration on natural resource management is divide and conquer
By Ralph Maughan On March 11, 2012 · 3 Comments
Collaboration is all the rage. How it has worked in Montana-
Past stories have not been very friendly to process called “collaboration” here at The Wildlife News although we not written of it for a while. That does not mean it has disappeared nor become friendly to conservation of our forests, grasslands, sage steppe, or alpine tundra in the meantime. The reason is that the collaborators who meet are almost always weighted by design in favor the the exploiters by right wing governors. It sucks up conservationist’s time, energy and causes the corroborating members to defend the scraps they think they have “saved” against criticism by those who think the process stinks.
The media usually thinks it is wonderful, however. They get to write feel good stories, at least a few years before they write about the natural gas and oil blowouts, the landslides, sinkholes, polluted air and water, and the demise of wildlife.
At the Missoula Independent, George Ochenski is not confused about the effects of collaboration in Montana as he writes, Hang the ‘collaborators’ And heed the clear-sighted “extremists” Here he expands on the presentation by Michael Donnelly at the recent Environmental Law Conference at Eugene, Oregon “The Wages of Compromise: When Environmentalists Collaborate.”
It should be noted that the Western Watersheds Project does not collaborate, and regional media do not write feel good stories about them. However, they usually win their battles.
The comments are also interesting.
JB had an interesting comment:
Okay, for once I’ll beat WM to the punch: I can’t but help point out how self-serving it is for a lawyer to come out against collaborative processes, which often help agencies AND conservation groups avoid lawsuits.
From the perspective of agencies who have a LEGAL MANDATE to allow for multiple uses, these processes can be useful for making decisions where there is no objectively *RIGHT* answer–which is often the case when it comes to the management of our National Forests. In fact, these processes are designed precisely to deal with the situation Ken laments–i.e., stakeholders have very different ideas about how lands should be managed (values) and there is no clear statutory guidance on which types of management priorities should prevail.
Concisely: Collaboration is a symptom, NOT the problem; the problem is that the federal statutes that direct agency activities (NFMA, FLPMA) set up multiple, competing uses (and interests) without clear guidance as to which use should prevail when conflicts arise. Going after collaboration won’t fix this (though it may make the lawyers happy). The only way to fix the problem is to change the law.
.Ken Cole of Western Watershed project says..
The collaborative process is designed to bypass the processes of these laws and make people feel good about doing so.
Note from Sharon: I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. I think collaborative FS efforts are intended to get people to work with each other and with the FS to jointly think about things; learn about things; and debate things to help inform FS decisions that still have to abide by the same laws. I wonder why people keep saying “intended to bypass” when it’s not true?