U.S. INSTITUTE UPDATE DECEMBER 2ND, 2008
In October 2008, the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (U.S.
Institute) announced that it would be conducting an assessment to determine whether
it would be productive for a working group to analyze public comments that have
been received by the U.S. Forest Service in response to the proposed Rosemont Mine
in the Santa Rita Mountains, approximately 30 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona.
The U.S. Forest Service, several citizens' groups, and the Council on Environmental
Quality had contacted the U.S. Institute about facilitating public dialogues regarding
the proposal of the Rosemont Copper Company, a subsidiary of the Augusta Resource
Corporation, to develop a copper mine adjacent to public land.
The U.S. Institute is a federal program established in 1998 by the U.S. Congress
to assist parties in resolving environmental, natural resource and public land conflicts.
Since its creation, the U.S. Institute has been involved in hundreds of environmental
matters around the country. The role that the U.S. Institute plays in environmental
conflict resolution ranges from undertaking basic diagnostic work (including situation
assessments), to facilitating meetings, designing and convening collaborative processes,
or assisting parties with mediation or other forms of assisted negotiation. Whatever
the role, it is generally the practice of the U.S. Institute to conduct an initial
assessment of a situation to determine whether its assistance can make a meaningful
contribution to a particular project. If it is determined that the U.S. Institute
cannot provide meaningful assistance to a project, it will convey its determination
to the interested parties, and often suggest other options for them to pursue.
In terms of the request for assistance regarding the Rosemont Mine decision process,
the U.S. Institute conducted an initial assessment to determine if it could work
with the public and representatives of interested stakeholder groups to design an
independent, transparent process for more effective public participation in the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Since NEPA requires federal decision-makers
to consider how federal actions may impact the human environment, the ultimate goal
was to seek ways to more effectively engage the public in the NEPA process by having
a public working group analyze the comments received on the mine proposal. In turn
the U.S. Forest Service would use this analysis in considering and addressing concerns
expressed in the public comments for the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS).
The U.S. Institute contracted the services of a third-party neutral, Carie Fox of
Fox Mediation in Portland, Oregon, to undertake the assessment process. Fox served
as the lead facilitator and primary contact for interested parties. Larry Fisher,
Senior Program Manager at the U.S. Institute provided project management support.
For the past two months, the U.S. Institute and Fox have been meeting with interested
parties to determine whether the initial design concept, a stronger integration
of public input into the NEPA analysis, would be practicable. A public meeting to
discuss initial findings of the assessment was held at Empire High School in Vail
on November 13. More than 100 people attended the meeting to discuss Fox's findings
In late November, the U.S. Institute and Fox completed their assessment of the feasibility
of convening a citizen's working group. On November 26, 2008, the U.S. Institute
announced its conclusion that a broadly inclusive collaborative working group would
not be a productive means of citizen involvement or an effective vehicle for enhancement
of the Forest Service's NEPA analysis. Fisher and Fox concluded that it would be
difficult for people to commit to a sustained, objective effort that focuses on
the analysis, rather than the outcome, of the NEPA process.
U.S. Institute communicated these conclusions to the U.S. Forest Service, participants
and the general public who have been involved in the initial assessment effort.
Fox posted a letter here
detailing some of the conclusions of the assessment.
In lieu of convening a collaborative working group, the U.S. Institute will continue
to work with the public and with the Forest Service to explore other options for
promoting meaningful public education and input, and greater transparency for the
NEPA process. The U.S. Institute will continue to consult with all affected stakeholders
as it considers any possible future role in providing neutral and independent services
in support of this effort.
The U.S. Institute is a program of the Tucson-based Morris K. Udall Foundation,
an independent agency of the executive branch overseen by a board of trustees appointed
by the President. The Morris K. Udall Foundation was established in 1992 by Congress
to honor the late Morris K. Udall's thirty years of service in the House of Representatives.
For more information about the Udall Foundation, visit
The U.S. Institute serves as an impartial, non-partisan institution providing professional
expertise, services and resources to all parties involved in environmental disputes.
For more information about the U.S. Institute, www.ecr.gov