Proposal Table of Contents

  1. Beginning of Proposal
  2. Introduction and Literature Review
  3. Research Questions
  4. Goals and Objectives
  5. Anitcipated Products
  6. Budget
  7. Project Member Profile
  8. Bibliography

A Systematic Assessment of Community-Based Resource
Management Partnerships

"A new dogma is emerging as a challenge to us. It embodies the proposition that the best way for the public to determine how to manage its interests in the environment is through collaboration among stakeholders, not through normal governmental processes."

Michael McCloskey, Sierra Club Chairman

(as written in a memo to the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, 1996)


Problem Statement

Out of the progressive field of environmental conflict management, a new genre of collaboration is currently breeding controversy in the environmental arena. Community-based Collaborative Resource Management Partnerships (collaborative partnerships) are initiatives in which diverse stakeholders use consensus building techniques for making decisions about the long- term management of natural resources. These groups, which include watershed councils, Rangeland Advisory Councils and sustainable community initiatives, have stimulated a lively, if not contentious debate about the role of direct citizen involvement in environmental planning and management. Praised by some for bringing stakeholders together to resolve contentious environmental issues, collaborative partnerships are also harshly criticized. Above all, opponents blame this process for producing "lowest common denominator" solutions (McCloskey, 1996) and co-opting the environmental advocacy movement (Mazza, 1997; Britell,1997).


Stakeholder negotiation is increasingly used as a way to resolve environmental conflict. In the 1960s and 1970s, the modern day environmental movement was borne out of conflict between diverse interests, including environmentalists, industry, policy-makers and managers. In the 1980s, however, the field of alternative dispute resolution grew with the objective of fostering decisions that were better informed, better understood and more widely accepted, thereby avoiding costly court battles and achieving win-win solutions (Susskind 1980; Fisher and Ury, 1991). Several organizations like RESOLVE, the Keystone Center and the Center for Dispute Resolution provide professional mediation assistance in support of environmental dispute resolution. In 1990, with the passage of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act (P.L. 101-552) and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act (P.L. 101-648) (Plater et al 1992), many government agencies also began to look to ADR as a means of handling internal and external conflicts (Susskind et al 1993).

Within the last decade, another phenomenon has appeared, informally linking the undercurrent philosophies of ADR, public participation and environmental problem-solving. Known by varying names---such as community-based collaborative partnerships, watershed councils, consensus groups, coordinated resource management, and sustainable community initiatives, among others---these community-based initiatives bring together traditional disputants from all sides of controversial environmental issues (McClellan 1996, Arrandale 1997). Using processes that promote problem-solving and focus on individual interests and shared concerns, collaborative partnerships are taking root across the U.S., addressing issues as varied as watershed management, riparian restoration, forest management, endangered species recovery, and grazing management (Jones 1996, McClellan 1996). Although the process uses principles of alternative dispute resolution, the focus on building relationships for on-going problem solving distinguishes collaborative partnerships from a one-time negotiated dispute resolution process (Wondolleck, 1997).

While these groups are similar in many respects to the process of ecosystem management (EM), there are substantial differences. Both emphasize long term planning and establishment of collaborative relationships among stakeholders; look at the larger picture of ecosystem relations in the management of natural resources; and emphasize the need to protect the environment while providing for the sustainability of local economies (Yaffee et al, 1996; Keystone Center, 1996). Indeed, some projects identified in EM research are also collaborative partnerships, such as the Malpai Borderlands in Arizona. However, not all ecosystem management projects are community based. Some, like the Columbia River Basin Project, are primarily large-scale agency managed projects (Burchfield 1998, Yaffee et. al., 1996). Collaboration in EM often means collaboration between agencies, not necessarily between all stakeholders, nor on a community level. A defining characteristic of collaborative partnerships is their position towards the top of S.R. Arnstein's ladder of citizen participation, where many groups occupy at least an advisory if not decision-making role (Arnstein, 1969; Wondolleck, 1996).

Positive Critiques

Support for collaborative partnerships ranges from the Clinton Administration to local landowners and environmental groups. Advocates of the process contend that ecosystem issues are local by definition and cannot be resolved with top-down solutions from federal agencies in Washington (Sadler, 1994). Many believe the process produces more creative and adaptive solutions to complex natural resource management problems, involving stakeholders so as to ensure a broad base of support for project implementation (Wondolleck, 1996). Collaborative processes also build trust between parties, a necessary condition for problem-solving to occur (Gieben, 1995). The benefits for communities and ecosystems are mutual, according to many participants. Not only does ecological restoration and sound management protect the "ecological capital" of rural communities, but according to one participant, "community success and pride will protect more habitat than any law we could write" (Michael Jackson quoted in Hamilton, 1993).

Positive Critiques of Collaborative Partnership Processes

Negative Critiques

On the other hand, collaborative partnerships are also harshly criticized. Many national environmental groups have refused to participate in several high profile partnerships, while others raise important questions that have gone unanswered (McCloskey, 1996). Concerns range from condemnation of alternative dispute resolution as a tactic to delegitimize conflict and co-opt environmental advocates (Britell 1997, Modavi 1996), to uncertainty over local control of national resources and the scientific soundness of negotiated agreements. Legislative support for the proposals of at least two groups (located in Quincy and Tuolumne County, California) have heightened fears that local efforts will pre-empt national interests, bypassing environmental safeguards and the opportunity for non-participant's review and comment along the way (Duane, 1997; Cockburn, 1993; Blumburg). At the heart of the matter is the precedent set by administrative and popular support for a process that has wide variation and no accepted standards for structure, functioning, or evaluation of outcomes (Huber, 1997). Simply put, these processes raise many questions for organizations that have been long active in normal governmental processes and who are uncertain about their role and capacity in this alternative forum. Concerns have been heightened by the recent passage of the Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997 (July) in the House by a vote of 429-1 (U.S. House of Representatives, Herger 1997)---politically legitimizing a highly controversial process.

Negative Critiques of Collaborative Partnership Processes

Controversy surrounding Quincy's collaborative process helped catapult it into the spotlight. The media quickly latched onto the story, presenting Quincy as an example of community-based collaboration that could change the process for addressing environmental problems. Ironically, there are hundreds of community-based problem solving groups in the U.S. that vary in structure, scope and outcome (BLM, 1998; River Network, 1997; Keystone Center, 1996, Wondelleck and Yaffee, 1994). Some are ad-hoc community groups while others are more structured (e.g. Coordinated Resource Management and Planning groups, watershed councils and BLM Resource Advisory Councils (BLM, 1998; Elder, 1997; Yaffee et al, 1996; Keystone Center, 1996; CA CRMP Technical Advisory Council). Myopically, media coverage has selected a few groups as representative of the whole, skewing the perception of the reach and legitimacy of the partnership process among policy-makers, interest groups and the public at large.

In the same vein, literature on collaborative partnerships falls into several categories: case studies and comparisons, popular press articles on specific groups (High Country News), editorial commentary advocating or condemning collaboration in environmental decision-making (e.g., and specific yet singular issues about collaboration. Workshops focusing on the subject emphasize the experiences and opinions of a select group of participants (e.g. American Forests, 1995,1998). There is of yet no research that offers a systematic and comprehensive assessment of the landscape of collaborative partnerships.


In order to determine the reach and consequence of this growing trend in environmental decision-making, we propose a systematic research effort to gain a concise understanding of the current experience in community-based collaborative resource partnership initiatives across the United States.

Through an objective survey and interviews of key stakeholders, we will identify key elements that define community-based collaborative resource partnerships, the range of roles in the decision-making process, and the experience and concerns of all primary interest groups. In addition, we will categorize the outcomes of different collaborative partnerships and explore alternatives to those processes. From this data, we will derive a set of criteria to serve as guidelines for judging partnership processes. Furthermore, we anticipate that all stakeholders will be able to use this tool to evaluate when a collaborative approach to problem solving is both credible and legitimate -- and under what circumstances and criteria might it be an appropriate process to formulate national policies.

Research Questions



From this project, we expect to gain a clear understanding of the range and variation in structure, objectives, and outcomes of collaborative partnerships in the U.S.; Positive and negative critiques of these partnerships reflect the opportunities and challenges facing collaborative initiatives. Through interviews and case analyses, we will discern how these partnerships capitalize on opportunities and overcome barriers to meeting the standards and criteria of concerned observers.

Objectives and Methods

A broad range of key participating and non-participating stakeholders in collaborative partnerships will be interviewed in order to:

1) Describe the range and variation of Collaborative Partnership initiatives

In order to visually represent the range, variation and scope of collaborative partnerships we will create a map to describe collaborative partnerships according to characteristics such as:

Methods - Characteristics to be examined will be derived from the literature on collaboration as well as critiques of the collaboration process.  Sources will include:

2) Examine the issues raised in both positive and negative critiques of collaborative partnerships.

We will identify and describe the positive and negative critiques surrounding collaborative partnerships. This information will be used to generate hypotheses regarding the criteria used by stakeholders to determine acceptable versus unacceptable collaborative partnership processes.

3) Illustrate and analyze what role these varied perceptions of the collaborative partnership process play in select case studies.

Within the range of collaborative partnerships, we will select and develop 10 to 15 in-depth case studies that exemplify the findings of our research. These cases will be chosen according to collaborative partnership categories defined in our research continuums, and their capacity to illustrate criteria derived from stakeholder surveys and interviews.



Our final report is now posted, September 1999. See homepage link.



Phone Calls @ $0.15 per minute
Copying @ $.08 per copy
Meals during travel @ $5.00 per meal
Driving @ $0.20 per mile
Flights from Ann Arbor @ $300.00
Voice mailbox @ $5.00/mth (12mth=$60)


Background information/research/interviews (May/June)
Phone Calls (10 min.), 100,--- $150.00
Copying, 300,--- $24.00
Postage--- $10.00
Initial Supplies (office supplies etc.)---$300.00

Introductory Research (June/July/August)
Phone Calls (20 min.), 100,--- $225.00
Copying, 500,--- $40.00

Setting up Interviews (July/August)
Phone Calls (20 min.), 100,--- $300.00
Copying, 200,--- $16.00
Postage, 100,--- $32.00

Administering Interviews (July/August)
Phone Calls (60 min.)150,--- $1350.00
Copying, 2000,--- $160.00

Report Preparation / Brochures (Nov./Dec./Jan)
Copying 1000, --- $80.00
Binding--- $155.00
Postage--- $136.00


NGO Visits (Washington, DC),---$350.00
Site Visits, ---$1250.00

Electronic Conference & Outreach Stratagies (Feb./March)--------

Total Phone (includes voicemail)--- $2085.00
Total Postage--- $180.00
Total Copying/Binding--- $500.00
Total Supplies--- $300.00
Total Travel--- $1600.00

TOTAL COSTS--- $4665.00

School of Natural Resources and Environment (includes office space, use of U of M facilities and $115/per student)--- $575.00
Rackham School of Graduate Studies (U of M)--- $2813.00
TOTAL INCOME--- $4738.00



Major: Resource Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resources and Environment
: Environmental Education
: B.A. International Relations, Brown University, 1992

Chrissy's experience in International Peacekeeping, has lead to her interest in the field of alternative dispute resolution. In addition to her dedication to the field of environmental education, Chrissy is fascinated about the emerging field of conflict resolution. She has successfully completed two master classes in conflict management and negotiation skills and is participating in a mediation workshop in April. Chrissy has had the opportunity to have conducted research regarding the Citizen's Management Committee in Idaho which was developed around the issue of Grizzly Reintroduction and wants to determine what motivates people to arrive at sound environmental decisions. Upon completion of her masters, Chrissy wants to work with collaborative groups in the west.


Resource, Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resources and Environment
Environmental Dispute Resolution; Tropical Ecosystem Mgt.
: B.S. Environmental Studies, University of Vermont, 1992

Merrick's professional experience and training focus on ecosystem planning and dispute resolution strategy. After finishing his undergraduate studies in environmental science, Merrick received professional training as a naturalist and guide in Southeast Alaska. Interest in Latin culture and environmental issues led to three years of work with biodiversity protection projects in Costa Rica and Panama---further honing his skills in ecosystem management and bilingual environmental education. Before coming to the University of Michigan in 1997, employment as an environmental planner in San Jose, Costa Rica exposed him to the increasing conflict over resource management in Latin America. Upon completion of his masters, Merrick hopes to apply his diverse experience and coursework to negotiation strategy and ecosystem management as a mediator of environmental disputes both in the U.S. and abroad.


Resource Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resources and Environment
Environmental Justice
B.S.: Journalism, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL, 1988

Leoneda is an award-winning (commercial and public) radio journalist who has spent the past 10 years investigating, writing and broadcasting newsworthy events -- from Tallahassee, Florida to Grand Rapids, Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Because of her environmental interests and proven track record in the reporting field, Leoneda was named a University of Michigan Journalism Fellow for the 1995-96 academic year where she studied Women in the Environment and Social Impact Analysis. In 1996, she was admitted to U of M's School of Natural Resources and Environment where her focus is Environmental Justice. Upon graduation, Leoneda plans on continuing her career as a journalist, but one with a better understanding of people's relationship with where they live, the water they drink and the air they breathe. Also a major focus, deciphering and reporting on policies relevant to tackling the environmental injustices affecting those of low socio-economic status.


Resource Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resources and Environment
Environmental Policy
B.S. Geology, Syracuse University 1996

Dirk has a background working for and interning with non-profit environmental organizations and governmental agencies. After graduating from Syracuse University in the Spring of 1996, Dirk went to Washington DC where he interned for Sierra Club's Political Action Committee and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (NY) after which he was hired and was a member of the Sierra Club staff. After a year in Washington Dirk chose to return to school to pursue a Masters in environmental policy. Dirk's interest within his study of environmental policy range from public opinion, urban planning, organizational analysis, conflict resolution to political analysis and environmental law. After finishing his Master's degree, Dirk plans to pursue a career for an environmental organization or agency in Washington, DC.


Resource Policy and Behavior, School of Natural Resource and Environment
Environmental Education
BA Anthropology, University of North Carolina, 1992

Shannon's interest in the human aspects of environmental issues has led to a dual interest in environmental education and conflict resolution. After receiving her degree from UNC, she interpreted desert ecology, geology and archaeology in Canyonlands National Park, first as a Student Conservation Association intern, and later as a National Park Service Ranger. She then served three years in the U.S. Peace Corps in Costa Rica, where she coordinated an environmental education project for a community-based watershed conservation foundation. On the Nicoya Peninsula, she worked directly with the local Monte Alto Foundation and the Ministry of Environment to plan for the long-term management of the premontane tropical forest and water resources of four rural communities. Upon returning to the U.S., she worked as the Hispanic family-advocate for a bilingual inner-city elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina. After completing her masters at the University of Michigan, she plans to direct an education and outreach program for either an environmental NGO or a federal land agency.


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