The Stegner Center’s Environmental Dispute Resolution (EDR) Program, established in February 2012, has continued its multi-pronged approach to promoting collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as a means to address contemporary environmental and natural resource conflicts. Primary funding for the EDR Program comes from a generous five-year grant from the Alternative Visions Fund, a fund of the Chicago Community Trust, supplemented by fees for third party neutral services in specific collaborative processes and other project-specific funding.
The EDR Program staff has expanded in the past year and now includes two full-time staff, a part-time blog coordinator, and a part-time administrative assistant. Michele Straube has been the EDR Program’s Director since its inception in 2012. Danya Rumore joined the program as its Associate Director in July 2015, after receiving her Ph.D. in Environmental Policy and Planning from MIT. In the past year, the EDR Program has also welcomed assistance from the Stegner Center’s Research Fellow, an MIT-funded summer fellow, and Environmental Clinic students.
In Spring 2015, Program Director Straube taught Conflict Management, alternating this course with Environmental Conflict Resolution in future spring semesters. Conflict Management is a skills course addressing the broad range of conflict prevention, conflict management, and dispute resolution strategies available as lawyers and other professionals counsel their clients. The exercises and simulations extend beyond environmental and natural resource conflicts, offering an introduction to collaborative problem-solving to a wider group of students.
The Program’s Environmental Conflict Resolution course will be offered again in Spring 2016. The students’ final project in this class is a written conflict assessment, in which the students research and analyze the collaborative potential of a real-life environmental or natural resource conflict. Based on stakeholder interviews and traditional research, the students write a case study analyzing best practices and lessons learned (if a collaborative process has already taken place) or design a future collaborative process. The students’ papers are shared directly with stakeholders and, depending on student and stakeholder willingness, are being “published” on the EDR Program website.
Associate Director Rumore also holds a part-time appointment as Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning, where she teaches negotiation and dispute resolution. In addition, both Director Straube and Associate Director Rumore regularly guest speak in classes across campus (ranging from Chemical Engineering to Communications). These interdisciplinary speaking opportunities expose a broader audience of students to the collaborative problem-solving skills they will find essential as they move into the “real world” of environmental and natural resource management.
Public Education, Research and Analysis
The EDR Blog (www.edrblog.org), launched at the end of March 2014, is coordinated by Mara Burstein (MPA, Columbia U). Blog entries are posted bi-weekly and feature guest authors across the spectrum of stakeholder interests. Some blog entries discuss current controversial issues facing the West and suggest how EDR can be used to resolve them. Some explore and discuss exciting research on the science behind the unique human ability for collaboration and dialogue. Some describe EDR projects in Utah and beyond, pointing out best practices and lessons learned. In the past year, topics have been wide-ranging, covering sage grouse (facilitator author), climate change (student authors), prairie dogs (agency leader), collaboration and NEPA (agency leader), benefits of dialogue (Ag Extension), fracking (COL alum), book reviews (EDRP staff), and much more.
The EDR Program has partnered with other academic institutions and non-profits on workshops that promote the use of collaboration in addressing difficult environmental and natural resource issues. In October 2014, Director Straube worked with the Escalante River Watershed Partnership and Cross-Watershed Network (XWN) to co-host the second annual XWN peer-to-peer sharing workshop and co-lead a session on developing effective communication and public engagement. In November 2014, the EDR Program co-sponsored an International Sage Grouse Forum, with special focus on the collaborative potential of local working groups (which include private landowners, ranchers, conservation interests and agency staff).
The proceedings of a February 2014 workshop on iterative and collaborative NEPA, co-sponsored with the University of Wyoming and Utah State University, were posted on-line in November. Director Straube and Jessica Clement (Ruckelshaus Institute, U Wyoming) co-authored a follow-up article, “iNEPA is the iPhone of Environmental Impact Review: Strategies to Make NEPA More User-Friendly,” published in the Summer 2015 edition of the ABA Resources & Environment Journal.
The EDR Program is developing a Utah Program on Collaboration, to include peer-to-peer sharing and capacity-building opportunities across stakeholder interests. A one-day UT Forum on Collaboration will be hosted later this fall for state and federal agency leaders to share their experiences and challenges with collaboration, and to identify resources that could enhance their agencies’ collaborative capacity. This will be followed by quarterly Dialogues on Collaboration, offering an opportunity for the full range of stakeholder interests to network and learn together, and an Effective Natural Resource Collaboration Short Course.
Associate Director Rumore’s Ph.D. dissertation explored the efficacy of a variety of stakeholder engagement methods in enhancing capacity for New England coastal communities to grapple with the challenges of climate change adaptation. The results of her work are being disseminated in a variety of venues, including:
- Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities: Strategies for Engagement, Readiness, and Adaptation, book forthcoming from Anthem Press in September 2015 (co-editor).
- “Using Devising Seminars to Advance Collaborative Problem Solving in Complicated Public Policy Disputes,” Negotiation Journalarticle written with Prof. Lawrence Susskind from MIT.
EDR Program staff coordinate the COL’s Green Team, a cross-section of faculty, staff, students and alums working with our architects to encourage sustainable behaviors that complement the LEED-platinum features of the new COL building. The Green Team is encouraging every member of the COL community to (virtually) sign a Stewardship Pledge, selecting at least three behaviors to conserve energy, water and materials, and improve air quality. Bi-annual updates will report back on the resource-saving impact of the pledged behaviors.
Third Party Neutral Services in Specific Collaborative Processes
The EDR Program provides process design, mediation and facilitation services in select cases that have the potential to be precedent-setting or that demonstrate best practices. The Program works closely with the Environmental Clinic to provide skill-building opportunities for clinical students on collaborative processes such as these:
Homeless Issues in Downtown Salt Lake City (the urban environment). We are involved in process design and facilitation for dialogues growing out of the situation assessment students completed through the EDR Program last year and Salt Lake City’s subsequent Homeless Services Strategy. Dialogue opportunities have included a Homeless Services Retreat, and SLC Mayor’s Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission.
Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP) / Cross-Watershed Network (XWN). ERWP is a partnership of federal and state agencies, local elected officials, non-profit organizations and individual landowners, which celebrated its fifth year anniversary in June 2014. XWN is a network of watershed partnerships and practitioners in the arid Southwest. The EDR Program provides facilitation, conflict coaching and process design support to enable these diverse groups of stakeholders to work collaboratively to restore, protect and maintain a healthy ecosystem in their watersheds.
Sustainable Grazing on Public Lands. Building on the consensus recommendations developed by the Collaborative Group on Sustainable Grazing for Southern Utah Forest Service Lands in December 2012, we are working with a site-specific grazing collaboration involving state agencies (agriculture, wildlife and environmental), ranching permittees, county representatives, and conservation groups. This collaboration is a first-of-its-kind effort to bring all public and private land managers in a specific geographic region together to develop a comprehensive approach to grazing management that maximizes private and public values.