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 Smith River Project > Identify Values and Goals

Chapter 7 -- Synthesizing an Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (continued)

Step 1. -- Identify Values and Goals

Environmental protection, sustainable economic development, and any other kind of management require agreement on clearly articulated goals. However American politics is characterized by competing efforts toward separate and conflicting goals, promoted by assorted interest groups. Group A attempts an "end run" around group B. Regardless of who wins or loses, solutions that result in "winners" and "losers" are inherently unstable. This is because the side that is defeated will regroup and begin a new assault. This results in frequent policy reversals. In this atmosphere, it is difficult to achieve any long term goals.

There is a better way. Better solutions to problems can be found if people are willing to talk. Through honest communication, innovative solutions can be invented, solutions that were not visible in the competitive atmosphere. This requires collaboration between all members of the community and all concerned parties. The most difficult obstacle is obtaining cooperation from the groups who are least inclined to cooperate, who are most entrenched in conflict. As community activists always say, "If you're comfortable, your coalition isn't broad enough!"

The aim of dialog is to establish values and goals to guide the restoration strategy. You should not confuse methods with goals. Goals can be achieved by a variety of methods. After values and goals are described, compatible methods are selected. It is helpful to identify the forms of biological productivity of the ecosystem that benefit humans, including potential new forms of productivity. It is important to emphasize forms of biological productivity because it is the most sustainable basis for prosperity.

This process takes time and effort but it is worthwhile for several reasons. First, a better outcome is almost always available through collaboration: a solution that remained hidden when opposing groups did not lay their cards on the table. This is especially true for complex environmental and economic decisions. Solutions invented through dialog and collaboration can integrate a broader range of community needs and desires.

Dialog and collaboration are also important in creating continuity and commitment to goals. Ecosystem restoration and sustainable economic development can only be achieved through years and decades of continuous effort. Continuous effort is not possible without long term commitment to goals. Commitment to goals will not be strong enough unless the goals have been produced through dialog and agreement among all concerned groups.

When people are courageous enough to overcome barriers to communication, a unique power can emerge. When someone describes what they want out of life in their own words, based on values they hold dear, there is a confluence of intellectual and emotional strength. When an entire community works together to describe their values and goals, and they clearly see methods that will achieve those values and goals, an extremely powerful force is unleashed. When this force is set in motion, huge amounts of energy and resources can be mobilized. Rapid progress becomes possible. Policy recommendations forged through community dialog are well-received by politicians because there is virtually no opposition. Similarly donations from corporations and businesses flow more freely to groups that have complete community support.

The future of the Smith River watershed cannot be decided autonomously by local residents. For better or worse, there are other parties involved. Most notably, national environmental groups are lobbying to protect remaining salmon and steelhead fisheries. It is in the best interests of the local community to get complete participation from all interest groups from all parts of the political spectrum. Only agreements developed through collaboration of all concerned parties can endure for the long term. That's why everyone must be recruited to participate.

You have to insist that all those with strong opinions must participate. Otherwise they will probably raise objections later, causing many hours of work to unravel. They may bring a lawsuit or initiate an expensive referendum or election campaign. They may succeed in passing legislation to impose their solution. Their imposed solution will fail to fully understand and plan for local concerns, especially economics. Broad-based collaboration virtually eliminates lawsuits and other activities that drain resources and perpetuate bitter feelings.

To summarize, the time and effort needed for inclusive dialog are worthwhile because they produce a better solution, a greater commitment over the long-term, and greater mobilization of energy and resources. Building community agreement on environmental and economic goals is the most important recommendation in this document.


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