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Adaptive Management For Natural Resources--Inevitable, Impossible, or Both?

J.B. Ruhl, Proceedings of 54th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2008)

Natural resources policy is in yet another phase of transition. Over the past decade, an approach known as ecosystem management has permeated federal and state public land management agencies and environmental regulatory agencies, in many cases changing the orientation of resource management regimes to give greater emphasis to conservation. Ecosystem management embraces new models of ecological resources as dynamic functional landscape units that can continue to provide a sustainable stream of valuable amenities to humans, but only if managed through large-scale, long-term planning aimed at maintaining the integrity of ecosystem processes and structure. Although the substantive policy shift toward ecosystem management remains controversial and tentative in many applications, even more anxiety is associated with ecosystem management's methodological sibling--adaptive management. Adaptive management relies on expert agencies to implement ecosystem management by exercising professional judgment through an iterative decision-making process emphasizing definition of goals, description of policy decision models, active experimentation with monitoring of conditions, and adjustment of implementation decisions as suggested by performance results.
Virtually every presentation of ecosystem management policy ties adaptive management methods to its hip--adaptive management, in other wor