Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Ralph Monfort

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Adaptive management is a science-based methodology designed to deal with uncertainties in environmental applications using an iterative approach, sometimes called learning by doing. The Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program (MRGESCP), consisting of sixteen federal, state, and local signatory organizations, adopted adaptive management in 2010 to aid in their charter 'to prevent extinction and promote recovery of [Endangered Species Act] listed species [the Rio Grande silvery minnow and the southwestern willow flycatcher] while allowing existing water uses and development of future water uses to continue in accordance with applicable federal and state laws' (Kelly & McKean, 2011, p. 4). While adaptive management is designed to handle complex and variable situations, its application often conflicts with established custom, regulations, and statutory practices. As a result, it has had mixed results in similar projects (Doremus et al, 2011, p. 1). This paper presents an analysis, based on a literature review, interviews with MRGESCP participants, prior experience in a government agency adopting a similar 'new' management program, and direct observation, of the applicability of adaptive management to the MRGESCP, identifies current and prospective issues, and gauges the likelihood of its success as unlikely. Major reasons for this conclusion include: contentious water politics on the river leading to a lack of collaboration among MRGESCP members, inherent institutional resistance to change exacerbated by the large number of organizations involved, absence of key stakeholders, and driving all of these, water scarcity. Findings and recommendations are presented.

Language (ISO)



Adaptive natural resource management--New Mexico--Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District., Endangered species--New Mexico--Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District--Management., Rio Grande silvery minnow--Conservation--Planning., Southwestern willow flycatcher--Conservation--Planning.


A professional project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.