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Dialogue and Negotiation on Issues of Natural Resource and Environmental Policy

Gail Bingham, Resolution and Avoidance of Disputes (1984)

Over the last 15 or 20 years, private businesses, citizen organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies have found themselves increasingly engaged in conflict over decisions that affect environmental quality and natural resources.1 Individuals and groups, having competing private interests or different perspectives about what constitutes the public interest, clash over both project-specific actions and general environmental policies.

Even a partial list of examples brings to mind headlines from across the country. Disputes arise over the siting of hazardous waste facilities, new projects for meeting increased demand for water in water-short basins, oil and gas leasing on public lands, mine reclamation plans, routing new highways, preserving historic buildings in rapidly growing cities, etc.

Often, underlying the disputes over specific projects, are disagreements over basic public policies. Is the hazardous waste facility really needed? Couldn't more effort be made to reduce hazardous wastes coming from industrial processes? Similarly, [6B-2] wouldn't that proposed water project be unnecessary, if additional conservation measures were adopted? What should the national standards be for mine reclamation? etc.

Although the line between project-specific and policy-level disputes is frequently blurred and whether a specific controversy can be more