Natural Resource Policy and the Paradox of Public Involvement: Bringing Scientists and Citizens Together

G. B. Walker
Steven E. Daniels, Utah State University

Originally published by Food Products Press (an imprint of Haworth Press). Limited preview available through remote link.


Immersed in natural resource policy approaches such as ecosystem management is the expectation that the best available science will be applied so that the best policy management decision will result. Citizens, like scientists and land managers, want natural resource management decisions based on good science rather than special interest group politics. Yet citizens also want to be involved in the decision process and are skeptical about the very science they claim must be the basis for policy actions. Herein lies an apparent paradox. Citizens' want the best science to guide natural resource management decisions, but not to the exclusion of their input. Similarly, there seems to be a paradox in the sentiments expressed by natural resource management agency administrators and specialists. Agency personnel know they need meaningful citizen involvement in their management decisions, but they also want citizens to trust their scientific expertise. This paper is about that paradox and innovative ways to work through it. We first discuss the nature of natural resource conflict, then address the paradox in some depth. A discussion of traditional public participation precedes innovative methods for working through the paradox.