Agency Engagement with Stakeholder Collaborations, in Wildfire Policy and Beyond
68 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 7, 2019
Political discourse suggests that federal officials in Washington D.C. manage Western lands and resources with little regard for local interests. This narrative is inconsistent with theory and practice alike. A central tenet of socio-ecological systems theory is that land and resources are inherently interconnected with local peoples and economies. Decades of federal land management also reflects the importance of localized inputs into law and policy. Legal scholars have, however, yet to provide a comprehensive account of the modern processes through which agencies engage localized considerations in land and resource decisions.
To fill this void, the Administrative Conference of the United States (“ACUS”) hired the Author as an Academic Consultant to construct a longitudinal account of agencies’ engagement with stakeholder collaborations. The Author identified hundreds of relevant laws and regulations, conducted dozens of interviews, and constructed case studies in Alaska, Arizona, and Maine. This Article presents that research — providing a robust, empirically informed descriptive account of agencies’ engagement with local constituencies to create law and policy.
The resulting account reveals that stakeholder collaborations are widely used. They play a vital role in agency decision-making — particularly for the most pressing, controversial issues. For example, agencies are using collaborations to mitigate ex ante wildfire risk. This Article presents a case study of the Forest Service working with a particular collaboration to execute vital wildfire mitigation measures. This account highlights how collaborations facilitate negotiations among competing local interests to guide agency action on thorny issues.
The case study is but one of thousands of stakeholder collaborations that exist in practice. Numerous statutes, regulations, and executive orders require the thirteen federal agencies to use stakeholder collaborations to manage various public land and natural resources. This Article maps the legal landscape of this widely used, but little-known, governance mechanism.
Keywords: administrative law, wildfire, collaboration, participatory governance
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