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Know the West

A sampling of the West's collaborative efforts


Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories: Everyone helps a California forest - except the Forest Service

Collaboration groups in the West now number in the hundreds, and range from informal grassroots organizations to government-mandated advisory councils. A cross-section follows:

* The Willapa Alliance is a private, nonprofit organization started in 1992 by people living near southwest Washington's Willapa Bay, considered one of the cleanest large estuaries in the continental U.S. Because many residents make their living from farming oysters and cranberries and salmon fishing, sustainable economic development is the alliance's main goal. Portland-based Ecotrust and The Nature Conservancy helped the alliance get off the ground along with money from the Bullitt Foundation. The 17-member board includes timber interests, environmentalists, anglers, and members of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. Contact Dan'l Markham, P.O. Box 278, South Bend, WA 98586 (360/875-5195).

* Controversy over the use of a "New Age herbicide" to control salt cedars, a nonnative tree, on the banks of the Pecos River prompted several soil and water conservation districts in New Mexico to form the nonprofit Pecos River Native Riparian Restoration Organization. The group invited federal officials, farmers, developers, and environmentalists to public meetings. Field trips were key to establishing common ground, says Tom Davis, coordinator of the group. "The environmentalists got their views from textbooks and discussions, but they needed to sweat through the salt cedars," he says. Contact Tom Davis, Carlsbad Irrigation District, 201 South Canal St., Carlsbad, NM 88220 (505/885-3203).

* The Upper Rogue Watershed Council was formed after the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Watershed Health Program, which mandates the formation and funding of local watershed councils. The group's main focus is anadromous fish habitat issues and water rights. Funded by state lottery money, members include a political activist, a manufacturer of special forest products, environmentalists, and timber and agriculture interests. Consensus is the favored way of doing business, and the council has successfully mediated disputes between water users and the Oregon Water Resources Department. "Establishing trust through communication is the key thing in bringing together loggers and tree-huggers," says Carol Fishman, the council coordinator. Contact her at 4550 Little Applegate, Jacksonville, OR 97530 (503/899-7578).

* The lack of adequate parking in Zion National Park led to an award-winning partnership between Zion National Park, Zion Natural History Association, the town of Springdale, and the Utah Dept. of Transportation. To tackle the problem, the park initiated a transportation planning process that was assisted by the Zion-Springdale Liaison Committee, a group of 10 Springdale residents representing a range of views. Their plan makes use of existing parking areas in Springdale, says Don Falvey, superintendent of Zion National Park, which will create "synergy" between the park and the local community. Contact Donald A. Falvey, Superintendent, Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767 (801/772-3256).

* The Animas River Stakeholder Group was formed in 1994 to address toxic contamination of the Animas River in southwestern Colorado. Its goal is to develop a basin-wide remediation plan to reduce heavy-metal loading in the upper Animas River and restore a viable trout fishery, which has been almost wiped out by past mining activities. Members include representatives of mining corporations; environmentalists; federal, state, and local agencies; land owners and water users. The group makes decisions by consensus, and is funded by a federal grant under the Clean Water Act. Contact Coordinator Bill Simon, 8181 C.R. 203, Durango, CO 81301 (970/385-4138).

* Wilderness debates in Utah are notoriously contentious, and one consensus-based group's effort to restore a semblace of civility to the bitterness ended in failure. The nonprofit Coalition for Utah's Future/Project 2000 was formed in 1993 to try to develop an alternative, community-based decision making process to wilderness designation in Emery County. Convinced that negotiation with anti-wilderness interests would lead to compromise, most other environmentalists bolted, says says Dick Carter, coordinator of the now-defunct Utah Wilderness Association and a member of the coalition. Then, after an agreement was finally hammered out, members of Utah's congressional delegation said they wanted no part of it. "They were afraid that consensus could break out all over Utah," says Carter. Contact Stephen Holbrook, Executive Director, Coalition for Utah's Future, Project 2000, P.O. Box 30901, Salt Lake City, UT 84130 (801/973-3307).

* The New Mexico Water Dialogue is a network of water management councils that grew out of a state directive for regions to use local expertise in water planning. The dialogue helped pull together self-defined regions that were wildly different in scope and style, says Santa Fe mediator Lucy Moore. The dialogue was initially perceived as threatening and amorphous, she adds, but now participants find it helpful. Representatives from tribes, industry, private water companies, and utilities sit on the network's 25-member board. Contact Lucy Moore, New Mexico Water Dialogue, 616 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505/982-9805).

* Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) are locally based, collaborative groups that advise the Bureau of Land Management on a variety of major issues affecting the management of public lands. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recently set up 24 councils in 13 Western states, replacing Coordinated Resource Management Program groups, which the BLM pushed in the 80s to help manage grazing. "It's another attempt to work things out with a lot of different people involved," says Shirley Muse, an environmental representative for the John Day/Snake River RAC in eastern Washington and Oregon. "I'm a great believer in that process...I've learned that other people feel as passionately about their interests as I do about mine," she adds. Council members are drawn from commodity and conservation interests as well as the general public, and are chosen on the basis of their track record in working cooperatively with people representing diverse interests.


The Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado has a wealth of information on environmental dispute resolution. Their new website, the Colorado Internet Center for Environmental Problem Solving, provides access to several bibliographies, case studies of conflicts, and information about Consortium activities: http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/environment. Contact Guy Burgess, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Campus Box 327, Boulder, CO 80309 (303/492-1635).

Community and the Politics of Place, Daniel Kemmis. University of Oklahoma Press, $11.95.

Consensus: Helping Public Officials Resolve Stubborn Policy Disputes, a monthly newspaper published by the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program, Harvard Law School, 516 Pound Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In, R. Fisher and W. Ury. Penguin Books, 1983, paper, $8.95.

Mediating Environmental Conflicts, J.W. Blackburn and W.M. Bruce. Quorum Books, 1995. $65.

Northern Lights quarterly, "The Art of Listening," Spring 1995, Vol. XI, No. 1. Back issues cost $5. Available this summer is the new Chronicle of Community, a tri-quarterly on consensus issues. Contact the Northern Lights Institute, P.O. Box 8084, Missoula, MT 59807-8084 (406/721-7415).

The Watershed Source Book: Watershed-Based Solutions to Natural Resource Problems, $25 from the Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado School of Law, Campus Box 401, Boulder, CO 80309-0401 (303/492-1288).

A World Waiting to be Born, M. Scott Peck (see story, page 9). Bantam Books, $12.95.