Environmental Dispute Resolution Program Update

Oct 16, 2013 | Stegner Center

The Stegner Center’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Program (EDRP) was established in February 2012 with generous funding from the Alternative Visions Fund, a fund of the Chicago Community Trust.   The EDR Program staff includes a full-time Executive Director (Michele Straube) and a half-time administrative assistant.  Additional assistance is provided by the Stegner Center’s Research Fellow, student interns and clinical students. 

In the past year, the Program has accomplished the following:

Academic Instruction
Twelve students (including one Urban Planning Masters student) made up the inaugural class for the Program’s Environmental Conflict Resolution course.  The curriculum, developed by EDRP Director Straube, includes readings, case studies and skill-building simulations.  The students’ final project was a written conflict assessment, in which the students researched and analyzed the collaborative potential of a real-life environmental or natural resource conflict.  Based on stakeholder interviews and traditional research, the students wrote a case study analyzing best practices and lessons learned (if a collaborative process had already taken place) or designed a future collaborative process.   The students’ papers were shared directly with stakeholders; some papers will be “published” on the EDRP webpage.

Public Education, Research and Analysis
Director Straube has spoken about environmental dispute resolution, collaboration and public participation in multiple venues.   The Salt Lake Tribune published two OpEd’s sponsored by the EDR Program:  “Can Utah talk constructively about the environment?” (1/21/13)  and “How Herbert approached water deal” (4/10/13).  Multiple articles were published in a variety of newsletters to educate key stakeholder groups about the benefits of collaborative problem-solving and consensus-building.

The program’s “Report Card on Environmental Dispute Resolution in Utah: Incomplete, But Showing Progress” will be published in the Winter 2013 issue of the University of Oregon Journal on Environmental Law and Litigation.

Third Party Neutral Services in Specific Collaborative Processes
The EDR Program provides process design, mediation and facilitation services in select cases that have the potential to be precedent-setting or that demonstrate best practices.  Third party neutral services are provided by the Program Director, with assistance from clinical students.  The Program also provides some pro bono facilitation services as a professional courtesy.  Specific collaborative processes over the past year include:

 Escalante River Watershed Partnership.   The 4-year-old partnership is employing a collaborative and comprehensive approach to restore, protect and maintain a healthy riparian ecosystem in the Escalante River watershed. Partnership members include federal and state agencies, local elected officials, various non-profit organizations, and local landowners.

 Collaborative Group on Sustainable Grazing for Southern Utah Forest Service Lands.  A collaboration that developed consensus agreement on grazing management principles and practices that will provide for ecological sustainability and are socially acceptable and economically viable.  The collaboration participants represented state agencies, academia, as well as agricultural, wildlife and environmental interests, with the US Forest Service serving as a technical advisor.  The group issued their “Final Report and Consensus Recommendations” on December 31, 2012.

 Cross-Watershed Network (XWN).  EDRP is working with numerous watershed partnerships and riparian restoration practitioners across the southwest to create a peer-to-peer network supporting collaboration and sharing best practices for healthy watersheds.  XWN received funding for its first year’s activities, which include a two-day peer-to-peer sharing workshop recently held in Cottonwood AZ and creation of a website.

 Homeless Issues in Downtown Salt Lake City.  The EDR Program has just been selected to conduct a Situation Assessment on homeless issues in downtown Salt Lake City (the urban environment).  Director Straube and four students will be conducting 30-50 confidential interviews with the full range of stakeholder interests involved with and/or affected by homeless issues in downtown SLC.  The final Situation Assessment report will include a summary of stakeholder perspectives on issues to be resolved and potential solutions, and will provide process design suggestions for moving forward on the issues in a collaborative, efficient and effective manner.