Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wrapping around vs. setting up

The 2003 Biological opinion on the Missouri River Mainstem operations required that habitat creation and other "reasonable and prudent alternatives" to avoid jeopardy be conducted using Adaptive Management, because there were significant disagreements about the effectiveness of the RPA elements. However, because of the urgent nature of the problem, the RPA elements, especially habitat creation activities, were started immediately without working out the details of how adaptive management would be used. This is in stark contrast to other adaptive management processes, such as on the Platte River and in the Everglades, where planning and organizing the governance of the adaptive management plans took years - or even decades. This makes the Missouri River an interesting case study in how important those governance bits are.

As a result, the teams that I am working with are trying to take an existing batch of actions, including experiments at various scales, different monitoring programs, and restoration actions, and wrap an AM framework around them. This is exciting on one hand, because stuff is really getting done - including experimental habitat restoration complete with monitoring. On the other hand, it is incredibly difficult, because now there are alot of people with vested interests in projects and programs who are reluctant to embrace change. This is understandable, because a changed program management structure may not include "your" program, or at a minimum may require you to interact with people that you didn't interact with before. Thus a huge part of getting AM off the ground on the Missouri River involves managing people's expectations - and just plain communicating with them. Often.

So far, I'd have to say that I have a much greater appreciation for the governance piece than I did before!

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