Complexity in Natural Resource Management
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Since the American West was settled, Americans have sought to preserve a sense of solitude for their experiences on public lands. Many people are fond of recreating in wilderness areas, or just knowing that they exist on the landscape, but not all know the effort behind getting a site designated as a wilderness. The purpose of wilderness areas are to provide areas that are essentially undisturbed by human activity. Some of the typical issues associated with wilderness designation include the conflicting desires of competing user groups, the political climate determining whether a congressional representative will support the wilderness bill, and the bureaucratic processes that the bill must go through to be turned into legislation. As a result of these issues it can take many years, or even decades, to designate a wilderness. Two wilderness areas, designated in March 2009, present an opportunity to analyze the process of natural resource management decision-making, especially as environmental organizations have begun to gather support for several additional wilderness areas in 2010. The Oregon Badlands is located in central Oregon about 15 miles east of Bend on a landscape characterized by lava flows, dry river canyons, and junipers and other desert plants. The Spring Basin Wilderness is located in central Oregon approximately 20 miles from the town of Fossil. Through a combination of interviews and document analysis this project explores the question: How do the differences and similarities of the players, motivating factors, and environmental conditions reflected in differences in the process leading to designation for each wilderness area? The findings of this research suggest that strong leadership, a well planned and executed strategy, local support, resolving issues early, and negotiation among stakeholders helps lead to a successful wilderness designation process. The primary recommendations to come out of this study are to: (1) recruit strong leadership, (2) strategize and work out details ahead of time, (3) organize a “friends” group, (4) identify benefits for all stakeholders, (5) ensure all user groups are involved, (6) identify the “low hanging fruit,” and (7) streamline the land exchange process. These findings and recommendations can be used by groups interested in proposing a wilderness area for congressional designation.