Cooperative management: an alternative approach to multijurisdictional management of environmental resources

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Environmental Management has become a multijurisdictional responsibility, involving federal, state, and local agencies. Agencies formulate and direct programs towards the fulfillment of an assortment of objectives, based on their independent missions. These programs frequently are not integrated or coordinated across jurisdictional divisions. Policies, programs and projects developed by one agency or jurisdiction may, therefore, impact those of another. Interjurisdictional conflict may be triggered if these impacts are incompatible. These conflicts may interrupt and impede the implementation of program decisions and may delay the effective management of environmental resources.

Judicial action, legislative intervention, arbitration, and mediation are approaches which are increasingly being used for conflict resolution. All these approaches attempt to resolve conflict, after decisions are made. A regional approach to multijurisdictional problems is another alternative to overcome interagency/interjurisdictional conflict through structural reorganization. The regional approach often is effective only at the pre-action staqa, however, and frequently is considered a threat to home rule and local autonomy if extended to management. All these arrangements tend to be very time consuming and cumbersome.

Cooperative management offers an alternative approach for more effective multijurisdictional management of the environment.. The objective of cooperative management is to facilitate the implementation of management programs, through a sequential process of compatible decision-making. The conventional process of decision making is adapted to incorporate mechanisms of interagency cooperation and collaboration, communication, and negotiation in the formulation and selection of decision choices. The cooperative management process attempts to secure decision compatibility at the strategic, managerial and operational levels.

Compatible decisions set the stage for more effective implementation.. While this study focuses on cooperative management among public agencies, the process described herein could have application as a mechanism to resolve/circumvent conflict among public interest groups, as well as between citizen groups and public agencies.

This study incorporates the design and evaluation of the cooperative management process. A likely application in the context of land and resource management problems in Alaska also is attempted.

Cooperative management may provide a workable and effective alternative for a wide range of multijurisdictional management problems. Whereas the process may not always culminate in compatible decisions 6 it might reduce the dependence of multijurisdictional management on external intervention for interagency conflict resolution. It may facilitate the accomplishment of a range of diverse objectives in a setting of greater harmony and cooperation.

The model study draws that may be of cooperative management described in this upon and combines various component concepts found in the literature of public administration, planning. policy analysis, conflict management, and so forth. The contribution of this study is not the “invention” of new concepts but the innovation of a unique combination of available concepts to facilitate the formulation of decisions which are compatible, i.e. not unacceptable to public agencies at various levels of government. The notion of compatible decisions is a key component in cooperative management. Cooperative management does not seek (depend upon) full consensus but rather, the absence of unacceptance as the viability of a chosen course of action.