Environmental Dispute Resolution Program

Environmental Dispute Resolution Program

Program Description

The Wallace Stegner Center’s Environmental Dispute Resolution (EDR) Program promotes collaboration, mediation, and other alternative dispute resolution processes (ADR) as a means to address contemporary environmental and natural resource conflicts in Utah and the Mountain West.

The EDR Program’s approach redefines the meaning of ADR. Usually thought of as an alternative to litigation, we use the term ADR to mean Additional Dialogue Required—i.e., using mediation and other collaborative processes to create an opportunity for dialogue, mutual understanding, and respect in environmental and natural resource conflicts. This approach builds long-term relationships, and produces enduring and creative on-the-ground results.

The EDR Program is building capacity for expanded and improved collaboration and mediation in Utah and the Mountain West, while documenting the extensive collaboration efforts already occurring. Our activities include:

Academic Instruction. The EDR Program provides students at the University of Utah essential negotiation and conflict management skills, as well as opportunities to practice environmental dispute resolution and collaborative problem-solving techniques. The EDR Program offers a variety of courses in multiple graduate programs, mainly: Environmental Conflict Resolution (College of Law, offered in alternate years); Conflict Management (College of Law, offered in alternate years); and Negotiation and Dispute Resolution (College of Architecture and Planning, offered every year). The EDR Program also regularly works with students from the College of Law, College of Architecture and Planning, Environmental Humanities Program, and other disciplines on applied projects for which the students receive clinical or directed research credit, or fellowship benefits.

Public Education and Capacity Building. The EDR Program hosts conferences, trainings, and workshops to build capacity for collaboration across environmental and natural resources stakeholder interests.  Our Utah Program on Collaboration—which consists of a biennial Forum on Collaboration, semi-annual Dialogues on Collaboration, and the annual Short Course on Effective Natural Resources Collaboration—provides opportunities for community leaders and other environmental and natural resources stakeholders to learn the basic principles of collaboration and consensus building, and to reflect on the benefits and challenges of using these approaches. The EDR Program also maintains a bi-weekly EDR Blog to educate students and the public about the possibilities for collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as alternative methods to resolve public policy conflicts, especially around environmental and natural resources issues.

Research and Analysis. The EDR Program documents, evaluates, and celebrates the extensive collaboration already occurring in Utah and the Mountain West, and proposes improved and expanded opportunities and methods for EDR. We hope that our growing collection of case studies and other resources will inspire and motivate parties currently in conflict to explore collaborative possibilities.

Process Design, Facilitation, and Mediation Services. The EDR Program conducts situation assessments, designs and facilitates collaborative processes, and provides support for collaborative efforts that demonstrate best practices, pilot innovative approaches, create collaborative precedents for future efforts, and/or provide student learning opportunities. The EDR Program also provides conflict coaching or mentoring in specific cases.

EDR Program Accomplishments

EDR Program Year 1 (2012-2013)

EDR Program Year 2 (2013-2014)

EDR Program Year 3 (2014-2015)

EDR Program Year 4 (2015-2016)

EDR Program Year 5 (2016-2017)

EDR Program Final Report (2017)


Principal Funding for the EDR Program currently
comes from the ESRR Endowment Fund for the
Wallace Stegner Center; initial five-year pilot
funding for the EDR Program came from
the Alternative Visions Fund of the
Chicago Community Trust.