US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution

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[edit] General Information

  • Official name: US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
  • Country: USA
  • City: Tucson
  • Type of organization: Non-profit Corporation
  • Date of creation: 1998
  • Interests: Mediation - Training
  • Fields of expertise: Environmental Disputes

[edit] Description

People with differing views and interests working together in a systematic and organized way to find workable solutions to shared problems about environmental issues.

Some examples of conflicts managed:

  • Managing public lands for people to use and enjoy in different ways... such as planning how a National Forest can serve future needs for watershed protection, timber harvesting and recreation;
  • Natural resources disputes... for instance, fairly allocating rights to use water, timber or mineral resources;
  • Conflicts over facilities sitting... like where to locate highways, dams, power lines or wind farms;
  • Protected area disagreements... for example, managing recreational uses while still protecting a sensitive natural area in a park;
  • Endangered species issues... for instance, how to implement protective actions that are required to prevent the extinction of a species;
  • Federal and Tribal government relations... such as how to respect tribal sovereignty and protect sacred sites when planning or implementing projects;
  • Disputes related to pollution... for instance how to best implement air, water or soil contamination cleanup activities.

[edit] Origin

Congress established the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution in 1998. The U.S. Institute's mission is to help resolve environmental disputes that involve the federal government, by providing mediation, training and related services.

Included within the term "environmental" disputes are conflicts related to the environment, public lands and natural resources. Congress also directed the U.S. Institute to work to further the implementation of our National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by providing negotiation, mediation, and other settlement efforts as alternatives to litigation.

Congress placed the U.S. Institute within the Udall Foundation. The Foundation is an independent federal agency based in Tucson, Arizona. As a result, the U.S. Institute is part of the federal government - but it is completely independent of all other federal agencies. Congressional sponsors of the legislation creating the Institute thought it was appropriate for it to be part of the Udall Foundation, as Sen. John McCain said, because Morris Udall's career "was distinguished by his integrity, service and commitment to consensus-building."

[edit] Mission and Goals

The U.S. Institute has three primary goals:

  • Resolve environmental conflicts and improve environmental decision-making by the appropriate use of ECR through U.S. Institute case services.
  • Resolve environmental conflicts and improve environmental decision-making by increasing the capacity of agencies and other affected stakeholders and practitioners to manage and resolve conflicts through the appropriate use of ECR.
  • Resolve environmental conflicts and improve environmental decision-making by providing leadership to guide ECR practice and policy development within the federal government.

[edit] Agency Overview

Since 1998 the U.S. Institute has been an impartial entity inside the federal government, independent of other agencies, that provides conflict resolution services to help public and private interests manage and resolve environmental conflicts nationwide. The U.S. Institute carefully guards its independence and impartiality. The Board of Trustees for the Foundation has adopted a strong conflict of interest policy, which emphasizes that the U.S. Institute's dispute resolution work is entirely independent of and without influence from the Board.

The 2005 Federal Policy Memorandum on ECR recognizes the U.S. Institute's status as a key provider of ECR services, and encourages Federal agencies to draw on U.S. Institute services to increase the effective use of ECR.

[edit] Staff

The U.S. Institute is small, with a staff of about 22, including Deputy Executive Director for Environmental Conflict Resolution program managers, project and administrative staff. The Institute provides services nationwide and frequently partners with private-sector mediators and facilitators who are located in the geographic area of a dispute. These outside mediators are among the more than 270 members of the Institute’s National Roster of Environmental Dispute Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals. Their resource is also available to anyone searching for an ECR professional at Roster of ECR Practitioners.

In addition to their mediation and facilitation skills, the Institute's professional staff have backgrounds in many related fields, including law, public policy, natural resource and public lands management, urban planning, air quality, transportation, energy, and Native American issues.

[edit] Funding

The U.S. Institute gets its funding from two sources: annual appropriations and fees paid for the services it provides.

  • Federal Appropriations: The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution is a program of the Udall Foundation, a federal agency. In fiscal 2007, Congress appropriated $1.9 million for the Institute, which pays a portion of their basic operating expenses.
  • Funding from Fees: Each year, the Institute generates about $2.5 million to $3.5 million from other groups (primarily other federal agencies, but also state, county and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations and others) in fees for conflict resolution services. Most of this funding is paid to contracted mediators and facilitators who work with the Institute on conflict resolution projects. The balance supplements their basic operating expenses.

[edit] Description of Services

The U.S. Institute provides a range of services to help parties prevent, manage and resolve environmental conflicts involving the federal government. Their most commonly requested environmental conflict resolution (ECR) services include:

  • Advice on whether ECR is appropriate in a given situation,
  • Connecting parties with qualified mediators or facilitators,
  • Analyzing conflicts and designing conflict management strategies,
  • Bringing parties to the table and mediating environmental disputes, and
  • Training to increase the ability of parties to manage conflict.

Through these services, the U.S. Institute is able to tailor the assistance it provides to parties. For example, for some conflicts parties may simply want help selecting a qualified mediator; for other cases, the institutional neutrality of the U.S. Institute can be instrumental in bringing parties together and guiding them through a conflict resolution process. The U.S. Institute can help at any stage of a conflict.

The following is a directory of their services:

  • Case Consultations: The U.S. Institute's staff is available to talk with federal agencies and other parties about the possibility of using a collaborative process to prevent, manage or resolve an environmental conflict involving the federal government. Up to three hours of case consultation services are available free of charge. Consultations give parties the opportunity to explore whether a collaborative approach may be appropriate. During consultations parties also learn how they might work directly with the U.S. Institute or connect with a mediator or facilitator from the private sector.
  • Referral Services: The U.S. Institute's small professional staff accomplishes most of its work through partnering and subcontracting with private-sector mediators and facilitators. The U.S. Institute primarily partners with members of the U.S. Institute's nationally recognized roster of over 270 highly skilled private sector mediator/facilitators. Their national roster is available online to anyone looking for experienced ECR practitioners. The U.S. Institute's staff can also be contacted directly for personalized assistance with roster referrals. Their personalized services include referrals from the Native Dispute Resolution Network, a resource for identifying practitioners to assist in resolving environmental disputes that involve Native people.
  • Conflict Assessment and Process Design Guidance: A first formal step in starting a conflict resolution process is typically an assessment. This involves:
  • identifying the issues involved in a given situation,
  • identifying the parties whose participation is critical,
  • educating parties on what a collaborative process entails so that they can make an informed decision about participation, and
  • providing guidance on how to structure the actual conflict resolution phase (e.g., the mediation or facilitation).
  • Convening Services: As an independent federal agency that serves all parties, the U.S. Institute can be instrumental in helping disputing parties come together to deal with a contentious conflict. Convening services generally involve setting up exploratory meetings of all affected parties. These meetings are guided by impartial facilitators.
  • Mediation and Facilitation: Mediations and facilitations are the cornerstone of the U.S. Institute's services. A mediation is the actual negotiation process between the parties, assisted by the mediator, where "resolution" is the goal. The third party mediator enhances negotiations between parties to a conflict by improving communication, identifying interests, and exploring possibilities for a mutually agreeable resolution. The parties remain responsible for negotiating a settlement. The mediator’s role is to assist the process, and the mediator does not have the power to impose any solution. Somewhat different from a mediation (where "resolution" is the goal), a facilitation is a collaborative process in which an impartial third party seeks to assist a group of individuals or parties to constructively discuss complex and potentially controversial issues, to seek a shared understanding of the issues at hand, and to explore how they might work together to meet their common goals. The U.S. Institute's small professional staff is available to provide direct facilitation and mediation services (i.e., using its own staff), but frequently the U.S. Institute provides these services through contracted private-sector mediators and facilitators.
  • Training: The U.S. Institute provides conflict resolution trainings, workshops and informational services around the country. These sessions include general introductions to ECR, more advanced sessions on using ECR in certain contexts, customized agency-requested sessions aimed at specific needs, and capacity building efforts integrated into conflict resolution processes. Representatives of federal, state, and local governments, tribal nations, NGO's, ECR practitioners, environmental advocates, community-based groups, science and technical experts, environmental and natural resource attorneys, public land managers, and dispute resolution and consensus-building professionals all benefit from these learning sessions. The ultimate goal of the U.S. Institute's training services is to help parties prevent, manage and resolve environmental conflicts.
  • Contract Administration: The U.S. Institute staff can help administer or manage any aspect of an ECR process, and the U.S. Institute can pool funds from different sources to fund an ECR effort. Contract administration and fund management services include: developing scopes of work, overseeing the selection of contractors, ensuring the completion of deliverables, managing project budgets, and administering project invoices and payments. When the U.S. Institute takes on a contract management role, it charges an 8 percent fee on contracted costs.
  • On-Site Programmatic Support Services: The U.S. Institute works with federal agencies to conduct programmatic reviews to determine where conflicts are impairing the effectiveness of government operations. In addition, the U.S. Institute develops conflict resolution models to help agencies incorporate ECR to enhance their operations. The U.S. Institute's typically assigns in-house staff to provide these services.

[edit] Contact

130 S. Scott Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701 (520) 901-8501 – USA

Tel.: (520) 901-8501

Email: usiecr@ecr.gov

Official Website

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