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Beyond Conjecture: Learning About Ecosystem Management From the Glen Canyon Dam Experiment

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This brief article, written for a symposium on "Collaboration and the Colorado River," evaluates the U.S. Department of the Interior's Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program ("AMP"). The AMP has been advanced as a pioneering collaborative and adaptive approach for

This brief article, written for a symposium on "Collaboration and the Colorado River," evaluates the U.S. Department of the Interior's Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program ("AMP"). The AMP has been advanced as a pioneering collaborative and adaptive approach for both decreasing scientific uncertainty in support of regulatory decision-making and helping manage contentious resource disputes -- in this case, the increasingly thorny conflict over the Colorado River's finite natural resources. Though encouraging in some respects, the AMP serves as a valuable illustration of the flaws of existing regulatory processes purporting to incorporate collaboration and regulatory adaptation into the decision-making process. Born in the shadow of the law and improvised with too little thought as to its structure, the AMP demonstrates the need to attend to the design of the regulatory process and integrate mechanisms that compel systematic program evaluation and adaptation. As such, the AMP provides vital information on how future collaborative experiments might be modified to enhance their prospects of success.

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2008-09-19

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Collaborative Planning and Adaptive Management in Glen Canyon: A Cautionary Tale

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The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been identified as a model for natural resource management. We challenge that assertion, citing the lack of progress toward a long-term management plan for the dam, sustained extra-programmatic conflict, and a

The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been identified as a model for natural resource management. We challenge that assertion, citing the lack of progress toward a long-term management plan for the dam, sustained extra-programmatic conflict, and a downriver ecology that is still in jeopardy, despite over ten years of meetings and an expensive research program. We have examined the primary and secondary sources available on the AMP’s design and operation in light of best practices identified in the literature on adaptive management and collaborative decision-making. We have identified six shortcomings: (1) an inadequate approach to identifying stakeholders; (2) a failure to provide clear goals and involve stakeholders in establishing the operating procedures that guide the collaborative process; (3) inappropriate use of professional neutrals and a failure to cultivate consensus; (4) a failure to establish and follow clear joint fact-finding procedures; (5) a failure to produce functional written agreements; and (6) a failure to manage the AMP adaptively and cultivate long-term problem-solving capacity.

Adaptive management can be an effective approach for addressing complex ecosystem-related processes like the operation of the Glen Canyon Dam, particularly in the face of substantial complexity, uncertainty, and political contentiousness. However, the Glen Canyon Dam AMP shows that a stated commitment to collaboration and adaptive management is insufficient. Effective management of natural resources can only be realized through careful attention to the collaborative design and implementation of appropriate problem-solving and adaptive-management procedures. It also requires the development of an appropriate organizational infrastructure that promotes stakeholder dialogue and agency learning. Though the experimental Glen Canyon Dam AMP is far from a success of collaborative adaptive management, the lessons from its shortcomings can foster more effective collaborative adaptive management in the future by Congress, federal agencies, and local and state authorities.

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2010-03-23

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Transboundary Conservation Efforts in the United States: A Comparative Study Between Glacier National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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Political boundaries often divide ecosystems and create the challenge of conserving the ecosystem across borders. Through transboundary ecosystem management multiple groups can come together and manage the ecosystem that spans their borders collaboratively. In the United States there are several

Political boundaries often divide ecosystems and create the challenge of conserving the ecosystem across borders. Through transboundary ecosystem management multiple groups can come together and manage the ecosystem that spans their borders collaboratively. In the United States there are several examples of ecosystems that span borders, such as the Sonoran Desert along the US-Mexico frontier and the Rocky Mountains running through the US and Canada. To gain insight into what leads to effective transboundary resource management I compared two case studies that manage resources over borders with multiple collaborators: Glacier National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. These two cases offer contrasting ecosystems and backgrounds in transboundary resource management in the United States. To compare the cases I coded them using a collaborative governance codebook (Schoon et al. 2020). The codebook uses a Context-Mechanisms-Outcomes framework to identify aspects of collaborative governance and contextual factors present in each park (Pawson & Tilley 1997; Salter & Kothari, 2014). Once coded, the cases were compared to identify what aspects were similar and different in the parks to help potentially explain what features did or did not lead to effective transboundary resource management.

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2022-05