COLLABORATIVE EQUITABLE SOLUTION BUILDING FOR COMPLEX RURAL SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES: A Case Study of the South Deschutes County Regional Problem Solving Project
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Rural communities in Oregon have been struggling for the past several decades with the transition from their historical natural-resource-reliant economy. Included in that struggle has been the coming to terms with the reality that existing public resources cannot meet the minimum needs to ensure that communities will continue to exist in the environments in which they are located. If rural communities are to remain viable, vibrant and healthy, they must find equitable, efficient and modest answers to address their human settlement impacts on the environment in which they reside. Many recent collaborative projects have begun to find solutions to address the need to live in a sustainable manner in those sensitive environments while also maintaining a high quality of life. Studies of these projects, however, have centered on the process and methodologies used rather than relating the actual outcomes. This paper focuses on a single case study of such a collaborative project, and includes not only process and methodologies but also results. Using the State of Oregon’s Collaborative Regional Problem Solving Program (RPS), the S. Deschutes County RPS Project completed an initial resolution development process with an identified implementation strategy in 2000. Since that time, the project has moved through the potential solutions adopted into the county comprehensive plan and ordinances to address several complex environmental issues that required continual coordination with several governmental jurisdictions. This study investigates the outcome of that project from a government practitioner’s point of view. It includes both a review of the underlying planning theories that provides the structural impetus for such collaborative processes and an identification of key assets needed for successful implementation of resulting solutions.