Improving Group Problem Solving in Endangered Species Recovery: Using the "Decision Seminar" Method

Richard L. Wallace
Environmental Studies Program, Ursinus College, P.O. Box 1000, Collegeville, PA 19426

Tim W. Clark
Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 301 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001

Endangered species recovery requires the confluence of technical skills, most often represented by
biology and ecology and their many adjuncts, and social and organizational skills. Over the history
of endangered species protection, the social and organizational skills necessary for successful species
recovery have often been lacking in recovery programs. As a result, these programs often
exhibit weaknesses involving coordination and cooperation among program participants. We discuss
and propose the use of methods to improve recovery programs by focussing on and augmenting
social and organizational aspects of program implementation and evaluation. The methods we
promote fall under the rubric of the "decision seminar," developed by Harold Lasswell and used
successfully in many contexts over the past half century. We discuss two examples of endangered
species programs which utilized aspects of the decision seminar — one unsuccessfully, in the United
States, and one successfully, in Australia. Using these examples, we illustrate the benefits and
utility of adopting the decision seminar in endangered species recovery programs.