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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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Two essays on the trade-offs between multiple policy objectives of environmental management efforts

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Environmental agencies often want to accomplish additional objectives beyond their central environmental protection objective. This is laudable; however it begets a need for understanding the additional challenges and trade-offs involved in doing so. The goal of this thesis is to

Environmental agencies often want to accomplish additional objectives beyond their central environmental protection objective. This is laudable; however it begets a need for understanding the additional challenges and trade-offs involved in doing so. The goal of this thesis is to examine the trade-offs involved in two such cases that have received considerable attention recently. The two cases I examine are (1) the protection of multiple environmental goods (e.g., bundles of ecosystem services); and (2) the use of payments for ecosystem services as a poverty reduction mechanism. In the first case (chapter 2), I build a model based on the fact that efforts to protect one environmental good often increase or decrease the levels of other environmental goods, what I refer to as "cobenefits" and "disbenefits" respectively. There is often a desire to increase the cobenefits of environmental protection efforts in order to synergize across conservation efforts; and there is also a desire to decrease disbenefits because they are seen as negative externalities of protection efforts. I show that as a result of reciprocal externalities between environmental protection efforts, environmental agencies likely have a disincentive to create cobenefits, but may actually have an incentive to decrease disbenefits. In the second case (chapter 3), I model an environmental agency that wants to increase environmental protection, but would also like to reduce poverty. The model indicates that in theory, the trade-offs between these two goals may depend on relevant parameters of the system, particularly the ratio of the price of monitoring to participant's compliance cost. I show that when the ratio of monitoring costs to compliance cost is higher, trade-offs between environmental protection and poverty reduction are likely to be smaller. And when the ratio of monitoring costs to compliance costs is lower, trade-offs are likely to be larger. This thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of the trade-offs faced by environmental agencies that want to pursue secondary objectives of protecting additional environmental goods or reducing poverty.

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2012

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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