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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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Managing for urban ecosystem services: the Yongding River ecological corridor

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Sustainability requires developing the capacity to manage difficult tradeoffs to advance human livelihoods now and in the future. Decision-makers are recognizing the ecosystem services approach as a useful framework for evaluating tradeoffs associated with environmental change to advance decision-making towards

Sustainability requires developing the capacity to manage difficult tradeoffs to advance human livelihoods now and in the future. Decision-makers are recognizing the ecosystem services approach as a useful framework for evaluating tradeoffs associated with environmental change to advance decision-making towards holistic solutions. In this dissertation I conduct an ecosystem services assessment on the Yongding River Ecological Corridor in Beijing, China. I developed a `10-step approach' to evaluate multiple ecosystem services for public policy. I use the 10-step approach to evaluate five ecosystem services for management from the Yongding Corridor. The Beijing government created lakes and wetlands for five services (human benefits): (1) water storage (groundwater recharge), (2) local climate regulation (cooling), (3) water purification (water quality), (4) dust control (air quality), and (5) landscape aesthetics (leisure, recreation, and economic development).

The Yongding Corridor is meeting the final ecosystem service levels for landscape aesthetics, but the new ecosystems are falling short on meeting final ecosystem service levels for water storage, local climate regulation, water purification, and dust control. I used biophysical models (process-based and empirically-based), field data (biophysical and visitor surveys), and government datasets to create ecological production functions (i.e., regression models). I used the ecological production functions to evaluate how marginal changes in the ecosystems could impact final ecosystem service outcomes. I evaluate potential tradeoffs considering stakeholder needs to recommend synergistic actions for addressing priorities while reducing service shortfalls.

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2014