A million-acre wildfire? Maybe once in a century, but several in several years? Just not sustainable!

Burns, Oregon

This issue was confronted in December of 2014 by the Bureau of Land Management, through Oregon Consensus in Portland, Oregon.  They decided to engage CDR Associates to help one county in Oregon (basically one BLM District–larger than the State of Maryland) face the specter of mega-fires in sagebrush country.  With the help of a “Core Team” made up of Federal officials (from BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service), scientists (USDA Agricultural Research Service), environmentalists (The Nature Conservancy), a County Commissioner, and ranchers, CDR began working on this project in February 2015.

CDR and the Core Team first worked together to create a larger group called the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative.  The Collaborative now includes members from Oregon Department of State Lands, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, members of six Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (the volunteer firefighters for the county), firefighters from federal agencies, members of two other environmental groups, as well as chiefs of tribal, city and county fire departments. The group agreed to meet for a full day once a month in Burns.  Further, the agreed on the following purpose statement:

The purpose of the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative is for the group to reach consensus on specific, achievable, tangible and measurable steps to be taken by all entities (both public and private) to reduce the potential for and impact of mega-fires in Harney County. (Here consensus is defined not as unanimity, but agreement to live with the developed solution and support it moving forward.) 

Suppression (the first topic to be addressed by the Collaborative) is defined as the communication, coordination and integration of actions taken to put fires out in both initial attack and extended attack.

In August the group moved from the suppression topic to the challenges of preventing these mega-fires. As their next step they intend to identify several pilot sites and work together to agree on management tools that can be applied to the wide variety of ecosystems on these sites.  The final major topic the Collaborative plans to address is restoration–so stay tuned! To learn more, contact Mary Margaret Golten.

Best Practices for Collaborative Water Decisions: Moving from Concept to Action

TB panorama for website

The future of water in Colorado and the West requires the best collaborative problem-solving and consensus-building skills available. To meet this need, CDR Associates and the Colorado Water Institute teamed up last month in Palisade, Colorado to offer the first in a series of interactive workshops on Best Practices for Collaborative Water Decisions: Moving from Concept to Action.

24 lively and inquisitive water professionals, stakeholders and decision makers from western Colorado and the Front Range gathered at the Wine Country Inn in Palisade to hone their skills in collaborative decision-making and share their experiences with other professionals. Recognizing that collaborative models are increasingly necessary to effectively address the complex and challenging issues affecting water in Colorado, the workshop helped strengthen capacity among water leaders and professionals to participate in multi-stakeholder problem-solving processes.

Participants came from federal and state agencies including the US Army Corps of Engineers, US Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the Colorado State Conservation Board; water districts such as the Colorado River District, Dolores Water Conservancy District and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District; agriculture users such as the Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, environmental non-profit organizations such as the Tamarisk Coalition and the Environmental Defense Fund; municipal governments; private sector entities; and independent water consultants.

The training team consisted of seasoned professionals with broad knowledge of water issues and a breadth of experience in designing, managing and facilitating complex collaborative processes. Trainers Ryan Golten and Todd Bryan of CDR Associates brought strong backgrounds in water resources and collaborative skills and processes. MaryLou Smith of the Colorado Water Institute and Dan Birch of the Colorado River District brought many years of experience in collaborative water planning, allocation, engineering and management.

The Palisade workshop is the first in a series of three collaborative water workshops being planned by CDR and CWI for locations throughout the State. The workshop may also be tailored for specific groups, agencies and organizations that are working together on water allocation issues. For more information on upcoming or potential future workshops, please visit public training courses, or contact Todd Bryan or Ryan Golten.

Time’s Running Out for CDR’s Mediation Process Training – October 26-30, 2015 in Boulder

Mediation roads

What we offer:

40 hours of highly experiential and interactive sessions during which you learn:

  • to analyze the causes of conflict and develop effective strategies to respond to them
  • recognize the states of the mediation process
  • help parties use the process to reach agreements and improve relationships
  • apply effective mediator communication skills
  • learn to respond to parties’ strong emotions
  • and much, much more

How to get the best possible training:
A course description and registration form are available here. Please contact us for any additional information.

Register before September 15 and save $100 (Regular registration fee – $1400)

Cache la Poudre River Health Assessment Framework

Ft Collins-Poudre River Picture

Organizations and agencies are increasingly learning the importance of collaboration for ensuring that decisions and planning efforts are broadly supported and sustainable. This is made harder and more critical when the issues are complex and technical, and when they cross disciplinary boundaries and expertise.

CDR has been working with the City of Fort Collins to help create a health assessment tool for the Poudre River. The Poudre River is a treasured community asset as well one of the most developed rivers in the country. Ecological, agricultural, municipal, industrial, and recreational interests compete for this limited resource, both externally and within the City. The multiple beneficial uses range from delivering water to towns and farms, to providing habitat, flood protection, and quality of life for the community.

The goal of the “River Health Assessment Framework” was to quantitatively describe the City’s vision for a healthy and resilient Poudre River. To do so, the City created an interdisciplinary team that could pursue this goal through a broad, inclusive lens – recognizing the inherent competing challenges, as well as synergies, between the City’s goals of securing a stable water supply, managing stormwater and flood risk, and restoring and maintaining an ecologically healthy river.

CDR helped the City:

  • structure a process in which the thorniest issues could be directly addressed directly
  • ensure the process resulted in concrete early outcomes
  • make sure these early successes could be built upon
  • provide meaningful problem-solving around difficult issues
  • bring in the necessary parties and ensure they were consulted at critical junctures
  • assure the process was iterative and set up for a lasting, successful outcome

Why CDR’s facilitation expertise helped create buy-in and minimize internal conflict:

  • we helped create a comprehensive, transparent process
  • we were able to help frame complicated issues in tangible, constructive ways
  • we helped challenge assumptions and dig beneath them to promote greater understanding
  • we probed staff on difficult questions

The result was a testament to real-life collaboration:

  • challenging, at times messy, complicated, and fast-paced
  • a process that resulted in deeper mutual and cross-departmental understanding
  • increased capacity for handling real and perceived conflict

The process culminated in a broadly supported tool that will have wide-ranging impacts for the city and beyond. The “River Health Assessment Framework” will be available in early July for public comment at http://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/riverhealth.php.

For more information, contact Ryan Golten.

Addressing the Water and Growth Dilemma in Colorado

Credit: StapletonFoundation.com

CDR Program Manager Todd Bryan explores water planning in Colorado.

“The Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue aims to redirect the issue of water and growth from the question of where to find water for future growth to the question of how we can make better decisions by understanding the consequences of land use decisions. A dialogue framework was developed, with the goal to identify strategies and actions for water and growth on the Front Range with the help of several collaborators…”

Read the full article starting on page 2 of the Colorado Water News Letter.

Trust Building: Moving Slow to Go Fast

Environmental Justice

“We, who participated in the mediation process, had an experience that none of us anticipated.  While we believed that we could form a ‘legal’ agreement, we gave little thought to personal relationships.  We started out as adversaries with firm positions, people who did not know one another, and began by treating each other as stereotypes.  However, during the process we began to learn about, know and value one another as people of integrity and good faith.  In the end we formed relationships based on mutual respect, understanding and appreciation.  In short, we became friends.  This was not a goal, it was a gift.  It was a lesson for life for all of us and is of much greater value than any legal settlement could ever be.”

Lorraine and Michael for the community organization

Joy and David for the chemical company


In 1995 a toxic chemical (sodium chloride) was spilled at an off-loading terminal in a low-income community where a mix of industrial and residential use has created a number of challenges for residents of the neighborhoods.  The EPA agreed to a settlement with the responsible chemical company.  Neighborhood residents in the community where the spill occurred had organized meetings with city and State representatives to discuss this settlement.  This resulted in a recommendation to request a mechanism for contacting residents in the future, should another evacuation be necessary.

Although the EPA settled, the company was still responsible under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRKA) to provide information about the spill to the affected residents in the community. This information was not provided, as required by the law and, two years after the spill, residents felt forced to sue the company.  However, residents were open to a settlement discussion, believing that communication and negotiation could possibly result in a satisfactory solution for all.  The company, which had positive experience with mediation in the past, was also interested in pursuing a mediated agreement.  After meeting in two one-day sessions, the parties reached agreement on all the issues, and the community organization that had filed suit agreed to have the suit dismissed with prejudice.

The affected community of 2200 homes was split in half during the 1960’s by the construction of two highways.  Over the past two decades, heavy industry has moved into the neighborhood.  61% of homes are owner occupied, many with two or three generations living in the community.  They are well organized and, due to the existence of many environmental hazards, have developed experience in working constructively (where ever possible), with companies who emit pollution into the environment.

In 1987 the community formed an Environmental Justice organization.  That organization has since grown statewide with over 500 members.  It was members of this organization that undertook the mediation with the chemical company.  The chemical company, itself, had also been seeking ways for developing better relationships with people in the communities where they are based.

Keys to Success

There were three primary factors that helped this process to succeed. First was the mediators’ determination, as a result of the pre-mediation interviews, that a fundamental issue was the development of relationship among the real parties to the dispute.  To that end, the logistics were arranged in such a way that the parties were near one another, across the table.  The mediators then structured the initial stages of the process to focus on personal communication among the parties, with little input from the mediators OR the attorneys.  By focusing on this fundamental, developmental theme, the parties began to build relationships, which sustained the process when it moved into more difficult negotiation on the practical, financial resolution of the conflict.

Second was the “slower is sometimes faster” principle, something CDR references often in our work.  The parties were asked to slow down, in spite of the urge to present (and respond to) monetary demands, we postponed settlement discussions until there had been an opportunity to understand how each group had experienced the spill and resulting perceptions of one another.  These frank discussions helped to humanize the situation and build mutual appreciation, creating a foundation for a productive negotiation on the settlement itself.

The third factor involved the roles played by the attorneys and the parties in the actual negotiations.  The parties took the lead in discussions, with their attorneys present to provide legal guidance.  This allowed direct, unfiltered expression of perspectives and concerns.  This was especially valuable because the direct conversations enabled the parties to build on the developing relationship, making tangible proposals and offers based on the real interests expressed by both sides.

Alfred P. Sloan and Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation Fund CDR Assessment of Industry Best Practices


Recently, we were happy to announce the receipt of a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in cooperation with Resources for the Future (RFF) to conduct a third-party independent assessment of best practices in social performance and community engagement in unconventional energy development in Colorado and Pennsylvania. That project is now underway. RFF and CDR are excited to announce a second grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to add Texas to the research. The Mitchell Foundation describes itself as “an engine of change in both policy and practice in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity, and economic vibrancy.” Its mission is to “seek innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems.” The late George Mitchell pioneered the modern technology of hydraulic fracturing.

The RFF/CDR project will focus on case studies where industry practices in community engagement and social performance have shown success in addressing community needs and overcoming conflicts. The project will examine what practices are working, where and why they are working, what outcomes they produced, and whether the practices are transferable to other regions. The findings will provide the oil and gas industry with tools to improve their “social licenses to operate” within communities and will empower communities to engage more effectively with industry to better satisfy community interests.

The 18-month assessment will rely on community, industry, and government input to identify potential case studies and initial contacts that have direct experience with industry operators and community outreach staff. The research team is also collecting data on the social, economic and political makeup of communities where case studies are conducted to help determine whether such variables are factors in the effectiveness of industry practices. Industry transparency is also a critical component of the study and the willingness of industry representatives to openly share their practices and to allow the research team to critically evaluate them.

The project is led by CDR Senior Program Manager Todd Bryan. Dr. Bryan has conducted comprehensive assessments and helped groups overcome challenging conflicts for more than 25 years. He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan.

For more information, please contact Todd Bryan or visit our energy practice page.

CDR Facilitates 400-Person Workshop for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to Update its Water Resources Plan


CDR designed and facilitated a highly participatory day-long public workshop for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MET) in which the agency shared information, received input from stakeholders, and discussed strategies for updating its Integrated Water Resources Plan (IRP). MET is the largest supplier of treated water in the U.S., and provides water for 19 million customers in the Los Angeles area.

MET updates its IRP every five years with an extensive public input process. In this workshop, MET wanted to go beyond presenting information and soliciting formal public comments to include an opportunity for dialogue with stakeholders about the proposed resource plan. To accomplish this goal, CDR facilitators designed and conducted a process that enabled MET to provide information, answer questions and engage in meaningful and challenging discussions on water planning strategies and priorities. The result was a day of substantive keynote and informal panel presentations, workshop-style discussion and exchange, public meeting-style comments and questions, and lively in-person and on-line participation with hundreds of participants. Workshop participants included member agencies, elected officials, water managers, non-governmental organizations, private industry representatives, activists, academics, and other concerned citizens. Attendees provided input on how MET could manage its water resources and reconcile controversial supplies and uses and competing demands under severe drought conditions.

The IRP workshop underscored the complexity of soliciting meaningful input and participation in an agency-driven planning process that involves highly technical science and policy issues, controversial infrastructure projects, and resources critical to millions of people’s lives. The level of engagement and interest was underscored by the number of participants who stayed well after the meeting for one-on-one discussions with MET staff. MET hopes to perpetuate this type of participatory, in-depth stakeholder engagement in its public consultations moving forward. The IRP workshop followed an earlier process designed and facilitated by CDR to assist MET and its partners to address and coordinate conjunctive management of water resources in the region.

For more information, contact Chris Moore or Ryan Golten, or visit our water practice page.

CDR Helps Launch Texas Package Recycling Summit

Texas Package Recycling

On June 25, 2015, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling (STAR) convened the Texas Packaging Summit, a state-wide workshop to explore the biggest issues facing municipalities, recycling processors, and manufacturers with regards to complex package recycling.  Convened in San Antonio, the Summit brought together national and state leaders and professionals from the recycling value chain to explore current trends in what Americans are consuming, current packaging technology, and how the waste stream is evolving as manufacturers consider more than just “end of life” packaging material. The Summit was sponsored by U.S. EPA Region 6.

The goal of the Summit was to:

  • Bring participants up to speed on the current state of package recycling both nation-wide and in Texas
  • Provide a broader understanding of the challenges brought on by modern packaging product development
  • Assessing the interest among participants in continuing the conversation to develop strategies for collective action to improve and increase package recycling in Texas

CDR Senior Program Manager Todd Bryan moderated and facilitated the day-long Summit and engaged participants from the packaging and recycling industries, municipal governments, and recycling advocates in identifying relevant issues and priorities along the value chain that are ripe for collaborative or coordinated efforts. Attendees were also asked whether they were willing to join a Working Group focused on priorities that emerged from the Summit and coordinated by STAR, with the assistance of CDR.

Mr. Bryan also developed a framework for further collaborative action.  The one-year framework is composed of a series of Working Groups formed around the most relevant priorities and a Plenary Group that is composed of Working Group members and individuals who have expertise and experience in the broader topic of package recycling in Texas and nation-wide. The framework builds on the June Packaging Summit and will use the Summit as the initial Plenary Group meeting.

CDR was awarded a contract to further assist STAR in designing, managing and facilitating a packaging dialogue to address priority issues through collaboration and collective action among Summit attendees and additional stakeholders. For additional information contact Todd Bryan.

CDR is Supporting Liberia in Implementing New Land Policy


In mid- August, USAID awarded Tetra Tech and its partner CDR Associates a contract to work collaboratively with the Government of Liberia and its Land Commission to enhance their capacities to further implement the nation’s new Land Policy.  This new contract is a follow-on to others in Liberia in which Tetra Tech and CDR were involved.

The new Land Policy outlines a process by which communities – principally composed of members of one ethnic group, but which may also include minorities from others – can apply for and receive government recognition of their right to occupy and manage their historic lands, and receive formal legal title of ownership.   The policy is very progressive, especially for many countries in Africa where colonial powers or other elites often claimed and designated land belonging to ethnic communities as state land.  This designation commonly disenfranchised members of ethnic communities from decision making about the management and use of their land, and often resulted in it being allocated to non-members or foreign concessions that reaped benefits of natural resources without local consultation, approval and little, if any, benefit sharing.

A major focus of the LGSA on which Tetra Tech, CDR, local Liberian partner organizations and the Land Commission will collaborate, involves providing technical and process assistance to the Commission and interested ethnic communities to complete the requirements for legal recognition of community land.  Communities wishing to secure legal recognition are required to: 1) self-identify their members, which includes formally recognizing women, youth and minorities residing on community land as full-members: 2) negotiate and reach formal agreements with adjacent communities on common boundaries; and 3) establish an inclusive governance structure to make decisions about community land – such as land use, allocation, demarcation of internal land boundaries, form(s) of member ownership, sale or lease of community or individually held land, and relations with external parties, such as investors or concessions.  Once these tasks have been accomplished, communities can formally apply to the Government for recognition of ownership and receive a title in the name of the community.

Tetra Tech, CDR and their local partners will provide Land Policy implementation process assistance, build Commission capacities to educate communities about land recognition procedures, help communities prepare to negotiate internally to recognize members and establish boundaries with neighbors, and design and implement acceptable land governance structures.  As accomplishing these tasks will likely in some areas involve significant tensions and conflicts, the LGSA partners will build the capacities of respected leaders in government, non-governmental organizations and customary communities to provide facilitation and mediation assistance to help resolve disputes and reach mutually acceptable and durable agreements.  For more information, contact Chris Moore.

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