Environmental Dispute Resolution
The Stegner Center’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Program (EDRP) — established in 2012 — promotes collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as a means to address contemporary environmental conflicts. Focusing initially on environmental and natural resource conflicts in Utah, EDRP is building capacity for expanded and improved collaboration and mediation, while also documenting and shedding new light on the extensive collaboration efforts already occurring in Utah and the Mountain West.
The new program’s approach redefines the meaning of “ADR”. Though usually thought of as an alternative to litigation, EDRP uses the term “ADR” to mean Additional Dialogue Required – using mediation and other collaborative processes to create an opportunity for dialogue and mutual understanding in environmental and natural resource conflicts. This approach builds long-term relationships and produces enduring on-the-ground results.
The EDR program encompasses four general categories of activity:
Academic instruction. EDRP provides students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and elsewhere at the University of Utah essential dispute resolution skills, as well as opportunities to practice environmental dispute resolution and collaborative problem-solving techniques. EDRP is developing an Environmental Dispute Resolution course to be offered to law and other graduate students in Spring 2013. The students receive skills credit by participating in realistic simulations. Law students can also receive directed study credits by researching and writing case studies.
Public Education. In order to expand the use of collaboration and mediation for environmental and natural resource conflicts in Utah and the Mountain West, EDRP 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. EDRP will develop and share best practices, to expand the pool of competent third party neutrals (mediators and facilitators) available in Utah.
Research and Analysis. Through specific case studies as well as broader analysis, EDRP documents, evaluates and celebrates the extensive collaboration that is 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 on environmental issues to explore collaborative possibilities.
Fee-for-service. EDRP is available to “do the work” of environmental dispute resolution for select projects. Services available include conflict assessment, process design and mediation/facilitation. Clinical students have the opportunity to assist the professional neutral as appropriate in these cases. EDRP staff are also available as a conflict coach or mentor in specific cases.
Report Card on Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah: Incomplete, But Showing Progress
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.
Escalante River Watershed Partnership
The 3-year-old partnership is developing a collaborative and comprehensive approach to restore, protect and maintain a healthy riparian ecosystem in the Escalante River watershed. The effort is co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Partnership members include federal and state agencies, local elected officials, various non-profit organizations, and local landowners. View photos from the 2012 field trip >>
Collaborative Group on Sustainable Grazing for Southern Utah Forest Service Lands
A collaboration developing consensus agreement on grazing management principles and practices that will provide for ecological sustainability and are socially acceptable and economically viable. The group’s primary focus is on three southern Utah National Forests. The process is co-convened by the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food. The collaboration participants represent state agencies, academia, as well as agricultural, wildlife and environmental interests. The US Forest Service is serving as a technical advisor to the collaboration.
EDRP is working with watershed partnerships and riparian restoration practitioners to create a peer-to-peer network supporting collaboration and sharing best practices for healthy watersheds. The Network is currently soliciting funding and planning its initial activities.
Report Card: Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah
EDRP conducted informal interviews and a survey of stakeholders involved in environmental and natural resource issues in Utah. Based on the interview and survey results, EDRP has given “EDR in Utah” a grade of “Incomplete, but showing promise.”
- Report Card on Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah, to be published in the Journal on Environmental Law and Litigation (Winter 2013 issue)
- Lessons from Nine Mile Canyon: Achieving Consensus over Energy Development on the Public Lands
- Tushar Allotments Collaboration: Final Report documenting agreement re: grazing on public lands
- The Escalante River Watershed Partnership: Conservation of an Endangered Riparian Ecosystem
EDRP Faculty and Staff
EDRP Founding Director
Michele Straube is an attorney with over 30 years’ experience in environmental law. As a practicing attorney she represented private and public sector clients, gaining extensive experience with administrative agencies in their regulatory and enforcement functions. For the past 15 years, Ms. Straube maintained an environmental mediation practice in which she designed and facilitated consensus-building processes for a wide variety of government, corporate and non-profit clients. She also directed Salt Lake Solutions, SLC Mayor Becker’s collaborative government initiative. Ms. Straube has designed and teaches conflict management courses as an adjunct at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and Masters of Public Administration program.
John Ruple works on public land and water resource management as well as efforts to improve management efficiency and collaborative resource management between the federal and state governments. Prior to joining the Stegner Center, John worked as a Fellow with the University’s Institute for Clean and Secure Energy, where he addressed land and water issues involving energy development in Utah’s Uinta Basin. Before joining the University of Utah in 2008, John worked as policy analyst in Governor Jon Huntsman’s Public Lands Office, as an environmental attorney, and a NEPA contractor specializing in permitting for projects involving ski areas operating on National Forest System lands.
Haley Carmer (2014 JD candidate) is earning environmental clinic credit by developing a simulation for use in a collaboration workshop for Forest Service rangers. She researched and selected the legal context for the exercise, and is developing the desired teaching points and role play fact pattern.
Scott Hutchins (2014 JD candidate) is currently researching the history, process, and implementation of the Washington County Lands Bill (passed with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-11). The Washington County Lands Bill is often described as the preeminent example of successful collaborative environmental dispute resolution. The final product for this project will be a case study, including a section devoted to lessons learned, that will further the educational element of the EDR program. Mr. Hutchins is focusing on natural resources law, serving as the Vice President of the Natural Resources Law Forum for the 2012 – 2013 academic year.
Derrick Perkins (2013 JD candidate) earned mediation clinic credit for his assistance at two Escalante River Partnership meetings. He acted as scribe and co-facilitator for a woody invasives committee retreat; he took notes and drafted the meeting summary for the full partnership meeting. Mr. Perkins is focusing on real estate law with an interest in connecting that to ADR practices.
Jason Steiert (2014 JD candidate) helped design the Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah Survey (see Current Projects) to promote a balance between qualitative and quantitative responses, and conducted and wrote the quantitative survey analysis of the results. Mr. Steiert is tailoring his coursework to obtain the Wallace Stegner Center Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law upon graduation.
- Consensus Building Institute
- International Association for Public Participation
- Office of Management and Budget & President’s Council on Environmental Quality: Memorandum on Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution (September 2012)
- Policy Consensus Initiative
- President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ): Collaboration in NEPA: A Handbook for NEPA Practitioners (October 2007)
- UNCG – University Network for Collaborative Governance
- USIECR – U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
This program is funded
by a generous five-year grant
from Alternative Visions Fund
A fund of the
Chicago Community Trust
Michele Straube, Director
Environmental Dispute Resolution Program
Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
332 S. 1400 E., Room 101
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
801-585-5516 (o); 801-581-6897 (fax)