Embracing a Civic Republican Tradition in Natural Resources Decision-Making

28 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2008 Last revised: 9 Nov 2013

Date Written: January 9, 2008


Public participation processes in agency decision-making are commonplace today and they consume substantial portions of agency budgets. But agencies often struggle to design processes that meaningfully engage the public. The lack of meaningful engagement is often excused as the fault of the other side. The agency faults the public for comments that lack specificity or that fail to account for the factual and legal constraints underlying the proposal, and the public faults the agency for ignoring its comments or failing to take them into account in making its final decision. Public frustrations with agency process often exacerbate public disenchantment with agency decisions.

This paper offers a prescription for making public processes more meaningful in the context of policy decisions impacting natural resources. It begins by tracing the history of public participation in government action. It then reviews the arguments that support public participation, as well as several reasons that may counsel against it. Participation processes will surely endure, but a better appreciation of the challenges that participation processes present can help agencies tailor their processes to be more meaningful.

The chapter then analyzes the theoretical foundations for public participation, concluding that the civic republican tradition offers the only viable approach for meaningfully engaging the public in natural resources decision-making. Various modes of participation are then evaluated in light of the civic republican model, with suggestions for modifying these processes to enhance their utility in engaging the pubic. Finally, the chapter discusses some of the ongoing problems with current public processes and suggests possible reforms.

Keywords: public participation, administrative law, natural resources, environmental law, civic republican

JEL Classification: K32, L31, L32, Q30

Suggested Citation

Squillace, Mark Stephen, Embracing a Civic Republican Tradition in Natural Resources Decision-Making (January 9, 2008). U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1082008 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1082008

Mark Stephen Squillace (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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