Introduction by WILLIAM SCHAMBRA
Opening remarks by BARBARA WYCKOFF-BAIRD
MARTHA WEST LYMAN, Atlantic Center for the Environment
KEVIN MCALEESE, Sand County Foundation
STEVEN HAYWARD, American Enterprise Institute
Mary Donahue and Kevin McAleese of the Sand County Foundation and the Bradley Center organized this May 18, 2005 discussion to promote the Foundation’s latest publication, Natural Resources as Community Assets: Lessons from Two Continents. This event also gave the Bradley Center another opportunity to bring members of Washington DC’s nonprofit-sector community—both those from the right and the left—together to discuss a particular policy problem and compare solutions. Kevin McAleese and the book’s co-editor, Martha West Lyman, participated on the panel, as well as Barbara Wycoff-Baird of the Aspen Institute and Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.
Moderator Barbara Wycoff-Baird began the discussion by introducing the concept of “community-based natural resource management,” or CBNRM, central to the Sand County Foundation’s programs. “The theory goes, if landowners capture sufficient value from the resources (if the resources are of value), and if they are able to then decide how those resources will be used, then there is a good chance that the resources will be managed well.” CBNRM focuses on strengthening several elements in the community:
- community control of decision-making
- a democratic process that includes absolutely everyone involved, from citizens to philanthropists to government officials and, in some cases, academics
- stewardship of natural resources
- the capacity for sustainable livelihood
- community capacity for using all available information, and gathering outside information if not enough is known
- community capacity for monitoring and learning from the results of decisions, to make further decisions
Kevin McAleese explained to the audience the subtitle of the volume: Lessons from TWO Continents. Why two? CBNRM essentially began in Africa, with its long history of communal management of natural resources in various forms, McAleese began. While working to strengthen some of those traditions in Africa, weakened by colonialism, the Sand County Foundation sought to draw parallels with and apply experiences there to efforts and community-based management here in the U.S. McAleese drew from the example of the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, described in chapter five of the book, as well as the experience of citizens in the Allegheny National Forest, in northwest Pennsylvania.
Martha Lyman drew also from the book (chapters two and six); she described the history of the Randolph Community Forest in New Hampshire, a state that shares with the rest of New England the long tradition of community forests, and the work of an organization called Wallowa Resources in Oregon. In both cases, communities were unheard voices in decision-making about their surrounding natural resources. Residents organized small, nonprofit efforts to make themselves heard, and their efforts received Sand County support.
Following these first-hand stories of CBNRM, Steven Hayward’s remarks put such efforts at environmental conservation in perspective, as he indicated at the outset he would attempt to do. Hayward began by mentioning James Q. Wilson’s “broken windows” theory, and wondering if there wasn’t a way, perhaps inherent in CBNRM, to break the “deadlock of environmental politics and policy” we’re currently experiencing.
For many decades, radical environmentalists have been sounding the alarm and calling for “nothing less than a wrenching transformation of society” to remedy environmental problems. Hayward sees this as indicative of the fact that “there are a lot of environmental problems in the world, especially ones related to land issues, about which we simply don’t know what to do,” on one hand. But it is increasingly indicative of environmentalists’ refusal to acknowledge that their cries are being heeded. “There actually has been a fundamental transition in environmental consciousness and culture around the world over the last two generations,” Hayward pointed out. Thus, individual self-interest has come to be an ally of conservation, a key realization upon which the Sand County Foundation draws in its work.
As for “broken windows,” Hayward commented on the “root causes” orthodoxy in social policy, broken by James Q. Wilson’s theory. “Practical people wondered [whether] maybe the problem was simpler than that, and that turned out to be right in practice,” Hayward described, wondering if the same transformation was about to take place with regard to environmental policy. It’s too early to tell whether community-based efforts can grow to the scale the large environmental problems they, as a group, must address, but it’s far more likely that they’re closer to the answer than the “very ambiguous, vague schemes” supranational organizations are trying to implement, Hayward concluded.
Quick panel presentations allowed for over an hour of questions and answers, during which some audience members sought clarification about CBNRM in general, while others questioned whether or not it was politically viable among conservatives. With regard to the latter, one unidentified audience member commented: “I’m a little bit surprised to see at the Hudson Institute this promulgation or interest in community-based planning processes. I’m wondering what has led to this within the conservative movement.” A few other audience members, including John Echeverria of Georgetown University’s Environmental Law and Policy Institute, asked similar questions, and offered their skepticism that conservatives would be truly interested in CBNRM.
Hayward gave a rather neat answer: “Partly this is an attempt to, you might say, to defuse the political atmosphere around this a little bit to see if there isn’t some room for some new thinking between people who could probably find ways to agree if they weren’t caught in traditional patterns of thought.”
Katherine Kravetz of American University and other audience members—some of them very skeptical—asked questions about particular aspects of CBNRM itself.
Kravetz asked whether an atmosphere of trust wasn’t also an important component in whether such projects succeed or fail. Indeed it is, panelists commented, noting that such trust can be cultivated by local leaders who bring the issue to their fellow citizens, in their own terms. One participant in a town meeting shared his own humble reason for wanting to take part: “I have never wanted to come to any kind of town activity before, but I now have children and I want something for their future so I’m going to be coming and working on the effort.” Martha Lyman said it this way: “You either identify people who can be a magnet or you invest in trust-building exercises.”
Bill Dennis asked a hard-hitting question when he pointed out that minorities have never been treated well by majorities—a problem the “community” in community-based natural resource management would have to face, among many others. Won’t there overall be many more failures than successes, he asked.
Martha Lyman responded that CBNRM was giving communities the resilience to deal with complicated issues—leaving them in most cases better off than they were before. Several times during presentations, panelists who advocated CBNRM observed that it was not a “silver bullet,” but that it was well worth the effort.
Many other questions, some of them quite nuanced and complicated, were deftly handled by the panel. Please see the final transcript for a complete record.
This event transcript was prepared from an audio recording and edited by Krista Shaffer. To request further information on this event, the transcript, or the Bradley Center, please contact Hudson Institute at (202) 974-2424 or e-mail Krista at firstname.lastname@example.org,