Evaluating the Application of Collaborative Learning to the Wenatchee Fire Recovery Planning Effort

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As a follow-up to an article published in this journal [Environ. Impact Assess. Rev. 16 (1996) 71–102.], we examine a case study application of the Collaborative Learning (CL) model to public participation in federal land decision making. As an innovation in public participation, CL combines elements of soft systems, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and experiential learning theory in an effort to foster meaningful public dialogue within public participation. The particular case examined was a forest fire recovery effort on the Wenatchee National Forest (WNF) in Washington State. Participants responded to questionnaires before and after meetings. The questionnaires measured changes in perception of the Forest Service decision-making process, as well as responses to CL itself. The results indicate a positive response to the CL process and an increased expectation of quality in the resulting decisions. Respondents did not generally perceive a reduced probability of appeals and litigation relative to the decisions themselves, but their expectations of the “survivability” of the decisions in the face of appeals and/or litigation generally increased.


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