Collaborative Planning and Adaptive Management in Glen Canyon: A Cautionary Tale

56 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2010 Last revised: 14 Jul 2015

Alejandro E. Camacho

University of California Irvine School of Law; Center for Progressive Reform

Lawrence E. Susskind

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning

Todd Schenk

Virginia Tech; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning

Abstract

The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) has been identified as a model for natural resource management. We challenge that assertion, citing the lack of progress toward a long-term management plan for the dam, sustained extra-programmatic conflict, and a downriver ecology that is still in jeopardy, despite over ten years of meetings and an expensive research program. We have examined the primary and secondary sources available on the AMP’s design and operation in light of best practices identified in the literature on adaptive management and collaborative decision-making. We have identified six shortcomings: (1) an inadequate approach to identifying stakeholders; (2) a failure to provide clear goals and involve stakeholders in establishing the operating procedures that guide the collaborative process; (3) inappropriate use of professional neutrals and a failure to cultivate consensus; (4) a failure to establish and follow clear joint fact-finding procedures; (5) a failure to produce functional written agreements; and (6) a failure to manage the AMP adaptively and cultivate long-term problem-solving capacity.

Adaptive management can be an effective approach for addressing complex ecosystem-related processes like the operation of the Glen Canyon Dam, particularly in the face of substantial complexity, uncertainty, and political contentiousness. However, the Glen Canyon Dam AMP shows that a stated commitment to collaboration and adaptive management is insufficient. Effective management of natural resources can only be realized through careful attention to the collaborative design and implementation of appropriate problem-solving and adaptive-management procedures. It also requires the development of an appropriate organizational infrastructure that promotes stakeholder dialogue and agency learning. Though the experimental Glen Canyon Dam AMP is far from a success of collaborative adaptive management, the lessons from its shortcomings can foster more effective collaborative adaptive management in the future by Congress, federal agencies, and local and state authorities.

Keywords: collaborative adaptive management, collaborative planning, consensus, ecosystem management, environmental management, Glen Canyon Dam, joint fact-finding, natural resource management, public participation, stakeholder engagement, AMP, dispute resolution

Suggested Citation

Camacho, Alejandro E. and Susskind, Lawrence E. and Schenk, Todd, Collaborative Planning and Adaptive Management in Glen Canyon: A Cautionary Tale. Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 35, No. 1, 2010; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1572720

Alejandro E. Camacho (Contact Author)

University of California Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 East Peltason Drive
4500-A
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-4160 (Phone)

Center for Progressive Reform ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

Lawrence E. Susskind

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Todd Schenk

Virginia Tech ( email )

207 Architecture Annex (0113)
140 Otey Street NW
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States
(540) 231-1803 (Phone)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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