Environmental Dispute Resolution Program

Environmental Dispute Resolution Program

Program Description

The Stegner Center’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Program (EDR Program) — established in 2012 — promotes collaboration, mediation, and other alternative dispute resolution processes (ADR) as a means to address contemporary environmental conflicts. Focusing initially on environmental and natural resource conflicts in Utah, EDR Program is building capacity for expanded and improved collaboration and mediation, while also documenting the extensive collaboration efforts already occurring in Utah and the Mountain West.

The program’s approach redefines the meaning of “ADR.” Usually thought of as an alternative to litigation, EDR Program uses the term “ADR” to mean Additional Dialogue Required – using mediation and other collaborative processes to create an opportunity for dialogue, mutual understanding, and respect in environmental and natural resource conflicts. This approach builds long-term relationships, produces enduring and creative on-the-ground results.

The EDR program encompasses four general categories of activity:

Academic Instruction. EDR Program provides students at the University of Utah essential negotiation and conflict management skills, as well as opportunities to practice environmental dispute resolution and collaborative problem-solving techniques. EDR Program offers two courses in alternate years. Environmental Conflict Resolution (offered in even years) allows law students to receive Skills credit by participating in realistic simulations and writing a conflict assessment for a real-life environmental or natural resource issue.  Conflict Management (offered in odd years) provides a broad overview of conflict prevention, conflict management, and dispute resolution methods, and allows law students to receive Skills credit.  Students can also receive Directed Research credits by researching and writing case studies, without taking either course.

Public Education. In order to expand the use of ADR, EDR Program holds conferences, workshops, and other programs to build the capacity for collaboration. This includes opportunities for community leaders and stakeholders in environmental disputes to learn the basic principles of collaboration and consensus-building, with particular focus on the benefits and challenges of using these approaches. EDR Program also maintains a Blog to educate students and the public about the possibilities for collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as alternative methods to resolve public policy conflicts, especially around environmental and natural resource issues.

Research and Analysis. EDR Program documents, evaluates, and celebrates the extensive collaboration already occurring in Utah and the Mountain West, and proposes improved and expanded opportunities and methods for EDR. We hope that our growing collection of case studies will inspire and motivate parties currently in conflict to explore collaborative possibilities.

Process Design, Facilitation, and Mediation ServicesEDR Program is available to “do the work” of environmental dispute resolution for select projects.  Services available include conflict assessment, process design, and mediation/facilitation.  As appropriate, clinical students have the opportunity to assist the professional neutral in these cases. EDR Program staff is also available as a conflict coach or mentor in specific cases.

Report Card on Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah, J. Envtl. Law and Litigation 28:227 (Winter 2013). As one of its first projects, the Stegner Environmental Dispute Resolution Program undertook an informal assessment of Environmental Dispute Resolution (EDR) in Utah. Over a period of five months, Ms. Straube conducted over thirty confidential interviews with and received over eighty responses to a written survey from a cross-section of stakeholder interests involved in environmental and natural resource conflicts in Utah. On November 13, 2012, Ms. Straube shared the results of this informal assessment, including a summary of past and present EDR efforts in the state, participants’ opinions about which EDR approaches work well and which do not, and an identification of the barriers and opportunities for expanding the use of EDR in Utah. Based on the interview and survey results, EDR Program has given “EDR in Utah” a grade of “Incomplete, but showing promise.”

EDR Program Year 1 Accomplishments

EDR Program Year 2 Accomplishments

EDR Program Year 3 Accomplishments

EDR Program Year 4 Accomplishments


This program is funded
by a generous five-year grant
from Alternative Visions Fund

A fund of the
Chicago Community Trust