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Know the West

Enlibra is better than what we've got

  Dear HCN,

I was pleased to read HCN's Oct. 26 profile of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state's efforts to restore habitat for coho salmon by involving environmentalists, landowners, timber companies and others in a consensus-based process. A sidebar article correctly notes that Gov. Kitzhaber's Oregon Salmon Plan serves as a model for Enlibra, a new shared doctrine for environmental management, which was adopted by the Western Governors' Association last year. I would like to correct remarks in the article that Enlibra represents a change in policy for Western governors and that environmentalists are not interested in this and other governors' association initiatives.

The eight principles that embody Enlibra were derived from several successful efforts in the West to develop environmental management strategies that incorporate balance and stewardship. The Oregon Salmon Plan is one good example. Another model was the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, which brought together environmentalists, businesses, eight states, all levels of government and academia to reach a consensus on how to reduce the haze that impairs the spectacular vistas in 16 national parks and wilderness areas on the Colorado Plateau. Most recently, six environmental organizations supported the governors' recommendations for revising EPA's proposed haze rule so the commission's recommendations can be implemented. Among those signing a letter to the EPA were representatives for the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Land and Water Fund for the Rockies.

In your article, David Bayles of the Oregon-based Pacific Rivers Council questioned whether Enlibra can solve intractable disputes such as the struggle over spotted owl habitat. While I think the principles could be applied and lead to a better "solution" than we now seem to be able to reach, I share Mr. Bayles' skepticism with respect to any system resolving some of the huge, long-term, bitter issues where 90 percent of what we are fighting over is already lost. I'm not sure Enlibra would prove the magic bullet for the "Titanic," long-running struggles in the East over PCB contamination either.

However, I think it is fair to ask whether the environmental system we are relying on that got us to these points can be improved. The Western governors believe it can.

James M. Souby

Denver, Colorado

James Souby is executive director of the Western Governors' Association (www.westgov.org).