Difficult environmental policy issues often elicit fervent declarations to “follow the science.” Such declarations ignore the essential role of values in policy making. The main purpose of this article is to clarify the relationships among science, values, and law in environmental policy. An important policy issue in wildlife conservation, is determining “how much is enough?” That is, what is the smallest amount of habitat or minimum population size that is adequate for the long-term survival of wildlife populations? This paper presents three case studies in which policy makers decided how much was enough for protecting freshwater salmonid habitats. The case studies are the federal Northwest Forest Plan, the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for Washington’s forested trust lands, and the HCP for Washington’s forest practices rules. Because all three plans were developed for the same habitats and species in the same region over a span of roughly seven years, all drew from the same body of science. Hence, the differences among the conservation plans cannot be attributed to differences in the available science. We explain how differences in habitat conservation were largely due to differences in societal values that were expressed through different legal frameworks. The legal frameworks established unique policy decision spaces for each plan. Strong leadership, vague or ambiguous statutory language, and commitments to adaptive management expanded the decision space for policy makers. Our case studies also show how values affected each plan through negotiations amongst stakeholders and/or leadership by key political figures. By appropriately integrating science and values these conservation plans led to lawful resolutions of a difficult environmental policy issue but in different ways. The lessons learned are highly relevant to other environmental issues.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
George Wilhere & Timothy Quinn,
How Wide is Wide Enough?: Science, Values, and Law in Riparian Habitat Conservation,
Nat. Resources J.
Available at: https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nrj/vol58/iss2/13