- Executive Summary: As the 2005-06 Chair of the Western Governors' Association, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano placed special emphasis on issues surrounding sustainable development.
As part of that initiative, she directed WGA staff to develop a white paper on the use of
negotiated compromise federal legislation as a tool both to protect unique and sensitive
lands in the West and to address growth and economic development issues faced by
Western states contain the vast majority of publicly owned lands. Management of these
lands impact the social and economic fabric of adjacent rural Western communities. As
much of the West continues experiencing unprecedented population growth, the
traditional tension between growth and preservation has escalated for these lands and the communities.
This white paper traces the history of land conservation in the West and the seeds of
collaborative approaches reaching back to federal statutes enacted in the 1960s. The
case studies show how traditional adversaries in three Western communities were able
to avoid impasse and come together to hammer out difficult compromises to accommodate most interests. Success has not been fully realized in all cases, but the difficult work continues.
There are those on both sides who believe compromising with “the enemy” on
conservation and development is tantamount to surrender. However, as the West keeps growing, the pressure will mount to negotiate solutions on the conservation and development of land and water supplies for traditional and new uses. Negotiated, omnibus legislation for public lands is one of the new tools that can help. This approach requires undaunted leadership, (a strong motivating factor to get parties to the table), a level playing field during the collaborative process, and an outcome that has enough support to weather the federal legislative process. Western Governors are uniquely poised to identify opportunities in their respective states, help initiate a truly collaborative process, and stand with their Congressional counterparts if a bill moves through Congress. It is a leadership role that they have played in other arenas and would likely be welcomed by communities and advocates alike.