In Defense of 'Conventional Politics': Resisting Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration in the Everglades
30 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 1 Apr 2010
Date Written: April 1, 2010
In 2000, Congress approved the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP is remarkable in a number of ways: the unprecedented scope and price tag; the vast physical scale of the ecosystem; the degree of scientific and technical uncertainty; and the institutional complexity of a program that involves dozens of governing agencies at federal, state, and local levels. Implementation has been excruciatingly slow, impeded by lack of federal funding; intergovernmental and interagency conflict; stakeholder contestation; and cumbersome procedural requirements. Yet the politics of CERP implementation has received almost no scholarly attention. The negotiated consensus-building process that produced CERP has been hailed as a model of collaborative watershed policymaking. But as critics have noted (e.g. Layzer 2008), collaborative processes often defer resolution of the deepest conflicts to implementation, during which local interests may exert greater influence. This paper presents preliminary ethnographic research on the most advanced CERP project, the Picayune Strand Restoration. Against the optimistic predictions of the collaborative management literature, I find that project implementation has been delayed and costs increased due to political factors including local resistance fueled by property-rights discourse. In the current recessionary climate, these delays and added costs threaten the success of a project that should be one of CERP's lowest-hanging fruits.
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