The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment is one of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law’s most esteemed centers, sponsoring regular programs focused on public lands, water, energy, wildlife and other hot button topics affecting the American West. Stegner Center faculty have long recognized the important role mediation and other alternative dispute resolution techniques might play in untangling some of these knotty issues affecting the region. The Center sought financial resources to develop a program that would help to bring together parties of differing ideologies to find common ground on current environmental issues.
With an extraordinary five-year, $762,000 grant from Alternative Visions Fund of the Chicago Community Trust, the Center will now be able to proceed with plans to develop an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program to expand its mission and promote collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as a means to address contemporary environmental conflicts. According to Bob Keiter, Wallace Stegner Professor of Law and the Center’s Director, “The program will be unique among our peer institutions and we believe it will prove to be a valuable asset regionally and nationally. ADR processes help parties to engage in a rational discussion, overcome communication obstacles, and fashion potential solutions that result in better environmental protections and more effective practices, while avoiding costly litigation and ongoing conflicts.”
Keiter said that the grant funding will enable the College of Law to add a full-time environmental ADR Program Director to the Stegner Center. He also noted that the ADR Program could provide a forum to address a variety of regional issues, including wilderness designation, right-of-way disputes, endangered species reintroduction, energy siting, recreation conflicts, wildlife controversies, environmental remediation, and other resource management disputes.
Dean Hiram Chodosh added, “We are thrilled about the opportunity this grant creates and deeply grateful for Alternative Vision Fund’s generous support. The funding will allow us to respond to requests from government agencies, corporations, environmental organizations, and individuals to design consensus-building processes and provide experienced mediators and facilitators to conduct those processes. We believe this will provide a critically important collaborative capacity to help resolve some of our most difficult environmental controversies.”
The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law will undergo a search for a program director this fall and expects to launch the environmental Alternative Dispute Resolution Program in January 2012.