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A new take on environmental management.

As business management techniques have changed, so are political management methods evolving. Here's one that just may work better than a big stick.

We are entering a new era where environmental issues are more complex and their resolution requires "the kind of cooperation and collaboration that the concept of 'enlibra' seeks to represent." - Governor John Kitzhaber

And you thought you had a good grasp of the English language.

A new word has entered the vocabulary of government officials, businesses, environmental groups or anyone who may become involved in an environmental dispute. "Enlibra" - the name of a new set of principles for environmental management - stands for balance and stewardship. It represents a framework for solving difficult environmental problems at any level, a philosophy to guide environmental legislation and a guide for relationships between regulators and the regulated.

The principles themselves have been used for years by various community groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in regulatory reform efforts.

So what is different about this latest effort to guide environmental disputes? The difference is that these principles have the support of the highest ranking western state executive officials - the western governors. They plan to take the doctrine to the National Governors' Association for an endorsement this year.

The western governors are trying to round up official support from state and local officials. So far, several local governments, the Western Interstate Region Board of the National Association of Counties and the American Waterworks Association have endorsed the project.

The reason for this effort is to develop new tools for solving environmental problems with more flexibility and participation and less delay. As a practical matter, it's not clear what the endorsements of the principles will mean and what implementation will look like. These issues, in fact, were the subject of discussion at the Western Governors' Association's Environmental Summit last December in Phoenix. This was the first time many policymakers, including state legislators, were introduced to the doctrine.

Developed by Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, a Republican, and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, the new approach is touted as bipartisan. Governor Kitzhaber says that "there has always been a tension in the West - between economic development and the powerful landscapes that define this region - between the extraction of natural resources and concern over long-term environmental stewardship."

Although the traditional tools of regulation and litigation have been useful and should not be abandoned, successful resolution of environmental problems, he says, "will require far more than simply passing laws and regulations." He calls for "greater individual responsibility and accountability for our air, land and water."

Kitzhaber says the Oregon plan for salmon and watersheds is a prime example of enlibra in action. The two-year-old plan is a bipartisan statewide effort to restore Coho salmon runs and the watersheds where they spawn. Triggered by a notice of a potential listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, the plan is based upon federal, state and local environmental laws but emphasizes the involvement of private landowners responsible for the watershed and habitat.

"I have experienced over and over again the fact that an approach that involves private landowners in the decision making - which gives them some ownership and investment in the work being done - has a greater and more immediate positive impact on the resource than simply applying regulations that tell them what to do," Kitzhaber says. "Telling people what to do with their land in the West is an explosive proposition."

So far in response to the Oregon plan, the timber industry has committed $130 million for improving logging roads, as well as a harvest tax - neither of which would be required under the Endangered Species Act. Also, a bipartisan move in the legislature resulted in a $32 million appropriation.

In fact, many of the tools necessary for the new enlibra approach depend upon state legislative support. Governor Leavitt says that "changing laws will be the most powerful part of this." He wants state legislators to be involved in refining and implementing the doctrine.

Utah Representative Bill Wright was not in on the development of the principles - nor were any state legislators for that matter - but agrees that "the philosophy of cooperation and communication is best for everyone.... The way the governor is approaching this needs to be done."


Nacional Standards, Neighborhood Solutions - Assign responsibilities at the right level.

The federal government is responsible for setting environmental standards for national efforts. States should have the option of developing plans to meet those standards and ensuring that they are met.

Collaboration, Not Polarization - Use collaborative processes to break down barriers and final solutions.

The old model of command and control, enforcement-based programs is reaching the point of diminishing returns. Successful environmental policy is best developed through balanced, open and inclusive approaches at the ground level, where all interested parties work together to develop local solutions to issues.

Reward Results, Not Programs - Move to a performance-based system.

A clean and safe environment will best be achieved when government actions are focused on outcomes - how clean the water or air becomes - not prescribing how a community or industry should achieve results.

Science for Facts, Process for Priorities - Distinguish subjective goals from objective facts.

Try to reach agreement on the underlying facts surrounding the environmental question at hand, using scientists that are independent from the regulators or the regulated, before trying to frame the choices to be made.

Markets Before Mandates - Economic incentives are more effective than rules and regulations.

Prescriptive approaches, such as requiring certain technologies or procedures, reward litigation and delay, cripple incentives for technological innovation, increase animosity between government, industry and the public, and increase the cost of environmental protection. Market-based approaches such as air emissions trading and economic incentives and tax credits that send appropriate price signals to polluters, will result in more efficient and cost-effective results and could lead to quicker compliance.

Change a Heart, Change a Nation - Act locally through environmental education.

The success of environmental policies ultimately depends on the daily choices of our citizens. People need to understand their relationship with the environment - that a healthy environment is critical to the social and economic health of the nation.

Recognition of Benefits and Costs - Comprehensive analyses should precede environmental decisions.

Environmental policies and programs should be guided by an assessment of the social, legal, economic and political costs and benefits of different options, and a determination of how feasible the options are, so relevant costs and benefits can be weighed.

Solutions Transcend Political Boundaries - Use appropriate geographic boundaries for environmental problems.

Because the movement of air, water and soil does not recognize political boundaries, airsheds, watersheds or other geographical boundaries should be used in addressing environmental problems. Recent collaboration between 37 states in the East and Midwest, industry and environmental representatives, to develop a plan to reduce regional ozone pollution was based on this principle.

Susan Johnson tracks environmental issues for NCSL.
COPYRIGHT 1999 National Conference of State Legislatures
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Title Annotation:includes related article on enlibra principles
Author:Johnson, Susan
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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