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Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages (2013)

Chapter: 3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages

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Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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Chapter 3

Examples of Sustainability
Connections and Linkages

The committee held a series of fact-finding meetings to explore six cases that posed challenges in terms of connected resources—challenges in the areas of science, monitoring, organization, and governance—and to examine the approaches various agencies used to address them. Although they differed substantially, each example dealt with the economy, society, and environment: the “three-legged stool” of sustainability. In many cases, stakeholder agencies and organizations, working with relevant government agencies, achieved significant and sustainable results because the right people with the right approaches from disparate organizations came together to do so. An agenda for each workshop is provided in Appendix C.

URBAN SYSTEMS - Philadelphia

For much of the latter half of the 20th century, Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million, was a city in decline. In 2007 mayoral candidate Michael Nutter adopted sustainability as the central organizing principle of his campaign, envisioning a revitalized Philadelphia as the number one “Green City” in America.

This vision resonated with the public, and once elected, Mayor Nutter issued a citywide sustainability plan: “Greenworks Philadelphia.” The plan considered sustainability through five lenses: energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement. Five goals and 15 measurable targets were designed to be achieved by 2015. Public perception depended upon measuring progress and communicating it in a compelling way. The city continues to measure and publicize results, both positive and negative.

Philadelphia is one of four U.S. metropolitan areas where the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has established an office to plan and manage both public transit programs and highways in the metropolitan region. In addition, just last year the Natural Resources Defense Council recognized Philadel-

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

phian efforts to implement innovative transportation policies and practices by taking a complete streets approach, increasing the availability of walking and bicycling trails and improving public transit.

Similarly, several innovative initiatives have converted vacant lots in the city to parks and other green spaces, which have been shown to improve the health and safety of those nearby (Branas, 2012). For example, a program was developed to remove trash and debris from vacant lots, grade the land, plant grass and trees to create parklike settings, and install low wooden post-and-rail fences. During the fourth committee meeting held in June 2012, Charles Branas, University of Pennsylvania, reported that these greening efforts had positive, significant impacts on several health outcomes: Gun assaults were reduced in all city sections; vandalism dropped in West Philadelphia; high stress decreased among residents in North Philadelphia; and exercise increased among residents of West Philadelphia.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 prescribes that local governments capture and treat wastewater before discharging it in rivers. Most cities treat sewage and runoff separately; however, portions of many older cities, such as Philadelphia, collect both sewage and runoff in the same system. When the combined volume exceeds the capacity of the sanitary system, the excess is discarded into the nearby river—discharges that must be minimized under the Clean Water Act. This problem, Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), has been exacerbated by urban build-out; as more green space is paved, there is more runoff. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires cities to address CSO, in most cases by expanding their sanitary sewer or via separate piping and treatment systems. The CSO infrastructure is expensive, and there are ongoing costs.

Philadelphia took the novel approach of reusing or managing rainwater in order to prevent runoff. The alternative to CSO, called “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI), allows stormwater to percolate through the soil wherever possible, using devices such as tree trenches, wetlands, planters, green roofs, pervious paving, or rain gardens (Figure 3-1). Rain barrels promote recovery and recycling of water.

The linkages between the GSI and other systems—and the benefits that result—are not obvious, but they are remarkable (PWD, 2011):

Saving energy while mitigating and offsetting climate change. Trees and plants are an important part of the GSI, shading and insulating buildings from wide temperature swings and decreasing the energy needed for heating and cooling. Because rain is managed where it falls in systems of soil and plants, energy is not needed for traditional systems to store, pump, and treat it. Growing trees also act as carbon “sinks,” absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and incorporating it into their branches and trunks.

Restoring ecosystems. Allowing rain to soak into the ground and return slowly to streams restores a water cycle similar to that of a natural watershed. Soil is a natural water filter, and this percolation limits erosion of stream

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

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FIGURE 3-1 An Unconventional Path: Rationale for the Green Infrastructure Approach. SOURCE: Presentation by Christopher Crockett, Philadelphia Water Department(PWD), June 12, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

channels caused by high flows. This approach includes physical restoration of stream channels and streamside lands, including wetlands, to restore habitat for aquatic species. Soil also filters storm water runoff, reducing pollutant concentrations and improving surface and groundwater quality.

Conserving water. Rainwater reuse technologies collect, convey, and store rain from relatively clean surfaces such as roofs. The water is generally stored in a tank or cistern and then reused for irrigation or flushing toilets in residential properties, and for boilers or cooling towers in industrial or commercial properties. If the cisterns store water for predictable, year-round use, their use can count toward compliance with stormwater regulations and also save water.

Reducing health effects of excessive heat. Heat waves are a fixture of summers in Philadelphia, including some severe enough to result in premature deaths. Trees and green roofs that are part of GSI reduce the severity of extreme heat events in three ways: by creating shade, by reducing the amount of heat-absorbing pavement and rooftops, and by emitting water vapor—all of which cool hot air.

Enhancing recreation. Throughout the park system, impervious cover such as concrete pavement is reduced, and residents enjoy recreation along Philadelphia’s stream corridors and waterfronts.

Improving air quality, with benefits for health. Like many major cities in the United States, EPA currently classifies the Philadelphia metropolitan area as exceeding federal air quality standards. GSI’s expansion of green areas improves air quality because it can lead to lower air temperatures, which in turn reduce smog formation. Green areas can absorb air pollutants and lower carbon dioxide levels.

Increasing property values. Trees and parks contribute to making an urban neighborhood an inviting place to live, work, and play. Residents clearly recognize and value the quality-of-life benefit of urban vegetation. Property values are higher close to parks and greenery.

Improving safety. Alongside the GSI program, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and other community and municipal partners promoted a program to clean, green, and maintain abandoned vacant lots—a process that produces visually pleasing results and, surprisingly, adds to public safety. Vacant lots are known to be convenient places to store weapons. Greening them reduced such storage and correspondingly reduced gun assaults in the neighborhood.

The overall effort was possible not only because the commitment to sustainability was adopted and supported at the highest level, but also because of the leadership and expertise of key actors from the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD). In 2006, PWD changed its regulations to require that all new construction projects in the city infiltrate, detain, or treat on-site the first inch of rainwater. This approach included charging nonresidential land owners for

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

stormwater control based upon parcel characteristics. The new fee formula called for 80 percent of a property’s charges to be based on the amount of its impervious surface area and 20 percent on its gross area. This principle was later extended to building regulations to encourage “green roofs.”

Through local experience and networks, linkages were created with other city departments, and benefits other than simple stormwater management were achieved. The plan came together when it was agreed that water revenue dollars could be spent on solutions that achieved not only the intended water pollution control but also other benefits.

As discussed above, in the case of sustainability efforts in Philadelphia, success was driven by the clear vision and commitment shown by leaders and supported by the innovation and dedication of technical experts and champions in the field to implement performance-driven standards (see Box 3-1 for sustainability performance outcomes related to the sustainability initiatives described above). Well-developed communication elements were also critical to the success.

URBAN SYSTEMS - Phoenix

Phoenix is a large, rapidly growing city located in a desert environment with an ethnically diverse and rapidly expanding population. Phoenix faces a unique combination of sustainability challenges, including water scarcity, poor urban air quality, significant loss of biodiversity, increasing demands on energy resources, and urban heat island effects on public health. The changing climate may exacerbate some of these challenges and increase the importance of addressing them in a timely manner to sustain quality of life for Phoenix residents.

In 2009 former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon put forward his Green Phoenix plan. Gordon’s vision included increasing the use of solar energy and improving transportation projects to make Phoenix the first carbon-neutral city in the country. The city has strong linkages to national groups (U.S. Mayors, EPA training programs, U.S. Forest Service, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), State of Arizona Department of Environmental Quality), local communities, and corporations. However, despite the importance of these efforts, the mayor’s office currently has only one person assigned the role of sustainability advisor, and that person has no designated budget authority.

Water and land use

With an average annual rainfall of only 20 cm, water availability and quality are pressing issues for Phoenix residents. Rainfall is highly variable from year to year, making water use planning difficult. The Arizona water supply is currently divided between surface water from the Colorado, Salt/Verde, and Gila River systems (54 percent); five major groundwater aquifers (43 percent); and

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

BOX 3-1
Sustainability Performance Outcomes: Philadelphia Example

Greening Public Lots (Source: Branas et al., 2011; Branas, 2012) Purpose: Removes trash and debris; grade the land; plant grass and trees to create a park-like setting; install low wooden post-and-rail fences.

Goal: Spur economic development.

Major Players: Funding received from PHS, City of Philadelphia, CDC, and NIH

Metrics: Gun assaults, vandalism, stress, exercise, substance use.

Septainable (Source: SEPTA, 2011)

Goals: Develop a more competitive transit system and attractive mobility alternative; improve environmental stewardship and build livable communities; increase economic prosperity across Greater Philadelphia

Major Players: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), City of Philadelphia, DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), EPA

Metrics: Greenhouse gas and air pollutants; water usage; waste; farmers’ markets; transit-oriented development; infrastructural improvements; transit mode increases.

Greenworks Philadephia (Source: City of Philadelphia, 2009)

Goal: To create Philadelphia the greenest city in America

Major Players: City of Philadelphia; numerous agencies, universities, foundations

Metrics: Energy consumption; greenhouse gas emissions; waste; parks; limit food deserts; reduce vehicle miles traveled by 10 percent.

Green Stormwater Program (Source: PWD, 2011)

Goals: Reduce runoff; update water and sewer system; come into compliance with federal and state laws.

Benefits: Improve air quality; save energy; restore ecosystems; reduce social cost of poverty; enhance recreation and quality of life; reduce effects of excessive heat.

Major Players: PWD, City of Philadelphia, EPA, State of Pennsylvania

Metrics: Implement intensive large-scale application of GSI; increase wet weather wastewater treatment capacity in targeted locations.

3 percent effluent. Agriculture is the largest user of water in Arizona; however, this may decline in the future given predictions that the climate of the southwestern United States will become drier over this century (Overpeck and Udall, 2010). To optimize water use, Phoenix will need long-term planning horizons that incorporate uncertainty and trade-offs (Quay, 2012; Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy, 2011).

The Maricopa Park plan is a Phoenix-based example of local and federal linkages, fostering conservation of species, preservation of habitat, and recreational opportunities. Maricopa County Park systems ring the city of Phoenix with 163,000 acres of desert mountain preserves, constituting the largest set of

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

wild land preserves in any metropolitan region in the United States, although the urban environment is rapidly enveloping those areas (McCue, 2012). The Conservation Alliance was formed to preserve sustainable lands within Phoenix; partners include Arizona State University (ASU), city and county governments, private foundations, and NGOs. Federal agencies contribute to this effort through “America’s Great Outdoors,” which involves the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Commerce, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Importance of foundational science

Long-term research and its application are critical to understanding, promoting, and enhancing sustainability in urban environments. Phoenix is the site of one of only two urban programs supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, the Central Arizona-Phoenix (CAP) LTER, which aims to integrate biological, ecological, engineering, economic, and social sciences. CAP LTER research has several integrative focus areas including climate, ecosystems, and people; water dynamics in a desert city; biogeochemical patterns, processes, and human outcomes; and human decisions and biodiversity. The CAP LTER is led by ASU, which works with a wide range of community partners through its School on Sustainability to achieve its research, education, and outreach goals.

Urban heat islands and sustainability of healthy populations

In a desert city such as Phoenix, the urban heat island effect can be very pronounced in two ways. First, in the summer months, some urban areas may be several degrees hotter than others. Within the city, microclimates exist in neighborhoods as a function of vegetation and its effect on cooling by evaporative transpiration; in fact, local temperatures within Phoenix can vary by as much as 14 degrees F (Harlan et al., 2006). Second, the urban heat island effect is reflected in generally higher minimum daily temperatures because heat is retained by the built environment, which fails to cool at night as the surrounding desert does (Figure 3-2).

One focus area is on the public health impacts of the urban heat island effect. This foundational research brings together climatologists, ecologists, sociologists, geographers, and geoscientists. Research reveals that vulnerability to extreme heat depends on place and social context. The highest morbidity and mortality associated with extreme heat falls disproportionately upon marginalized groups, including the poor, minorities, and the elderly (Harlan et al., 2006). Substandard housing, lack of air conditioning, crowding, poverty, homelessness, and aging contribute to the occurrence of heat-related health problems, as do

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

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FIGURE 3-2 Urban Heat Island expression in Phoenix. SOURCE: Presentation by Diana Petitti, ASU, June 11, 2012. The diagram was created by Joseph Zehnder and Susanne Grossman-Clarke, Central Arizona – Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project, ASU.

certain occupations such as construction and agriculture. A warming climate will undoubtedly exacerbate heat-related health problems, particularly in urban environments. Harlan (2012) cites several benefits of improving ecosystem services with increased vegetation in heat-vulnerable neighborhoods, such as psychological impacts, including reducing stress; promoting health and well-being; providing recreational spaces for outdoor physical activities; improving air quality; and other health-related outcomes including reducing the number of heat-related illnesses.

Federal linkages in support of sustainability

During the fourth committee meeting held in June 2012, Petitti (2012) described several positive examples of linkages among agencies and organizations working to address sustainability issues in Phoenix:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is supporting an Arizona Department of Health Services grant related to preparedness for high heat events.

USDA is providing support to local groups for urban agriculture programs, such as community gardens in poor neighborhoods, which provide green spaces that cool the environment and reduce social isolation.

The National Weather Service and the State of Arizona are collaborating to provide heat watch warnings and public education.

State and local agency employees and nonprofits have formed the Coalition on Heat Relief, which focuses on protecting the homeless by passing out water and getting people out of the heat in the summer.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

Thus, a limited number of federal agencies are effectively engaging with state and local governments and other organizations to address the problem of public health impacts of urban heat islands.

This effort to improve human health and well-being integrates many aspects of sustainability, including greater availability of energy, water, green space, and transportation; improvements in air quality; support for social equity; and adaptation to a changing climate. Two overall conclusions may be drawn from this example. First, additional federal partners, including some unobvious ones, need to be engaged in supporting urban sustainability. Housing, transportation, and energy are critically important to populations vulnerable to extreme heat events. Partnerships and a shared vision for urban sustainability among federal, state, and local governments and organizations, with clearly articulated roles and responsibilities, can reduce the need for crisis management and last minute interventions.

Second, the contributions made by CAP LTER show that long-term, integrative, cross-disciplinary research provides a strong scientific foundation for decision making. Over 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in or near a city, and yet there is little long-term research on urban sustainability. Additional federal science funding agencies must step forward to support this important endeavor.

NONURBAN SYSTEMS - Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert in California is a vast and seemingly harsh, yet fragile region; however, despite common perception, the desert is far from empty. The land is used for recreation, housing, and military training. It is a premium location for renewable energy development, as it has some of the highest-quality solar and wind resources in the nation. It is also home to mining, agriculture, energy production, and a wide variety of human and natural communities, as well as unique ecosystems and a number of endangered species. The competition between human-centric land uses and the desire to preserve species habitat and manage on an ecosystemwide basis has increased the need for coordinated land management in the Mojave Desert.

The desert is largely public land overseen by a patchwork of organizations. In the California Mojave, approximately 80 percent (25 million acres) of the land is publicly owned, including two national parks, one national preserve, 72 wilderness areas, six military bases, and 10 state parks. In addition, the area involves eight county jurisdictions and 37 federally recognized Native American Indian tribes. Conflicting demands for the use of California desert lands make it imperative that governmental agencies cooperate to support agency missions, protect desert resources, and manage public use. Land management in the California Mojave currently involves two coordinated management efforts: the Desert Manager’s Group (DMG) and the ongoing development of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

Desert Managers Group

This group originated as a collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service (NPS) in response to the impending passage of the California Desert Protection Act. That Act and the vicissitudes of history have resulted in major transfers of land from BLM to NPS, large wilderness designations, and responsibilities to administer adjacent and sometimes overlapping pieces of land (Figure 3-3).

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Figure 3-3 DMG Area of Interest. Source: Presentation by Russell Scofield, U.S. Department of the Interior, April 11, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

As the largest manager of public land in the Mojave Desert, BLM was engaged in ecosystem-based planning efforts, and the land transfers to NPS created conflict between the organizations over land-use planning and management. There were major conflicts over grazing, desert tortoise recovery, off-road vehicle use, mining, hunting, military overflights, burro and wild horse management, water for wildlife, and development (NPS, 2003).

In late 1994, the Desert Managers Group was officially established to include NPS, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), California State Parks, and the four military base commands. The group allows agencies to avoid duplication of effort by sharing information and facilities; it also coordinates federal efforts to acquire lands, eliminating situations where multiple agencies bid on the same parcel, which would artificially inflate property values.

DMG is enhanced by longstanding personal and professional relationships among the participants. Regular face-to-face meetings allow line officers to work as a group, set goals, address cross-boundary issues and get to know each other better. Informal networking is an important component.

Although the function of DMG requires support from senior leadership, its success depends upon creating value for the participants. One dimension of this value is derived from the enhanced decision space they gain by participating in DMG. The group causes the individual members to think outside their own organizational boundaries and to enlarge the interpretation of their own agency mission to focus on landscape issues and regional sustainability. Bimonthly meetings hosted by the group focus on land management issues of common concern. Although DMG is a very successful collaboration, it has neither budget nor regulatory authority over land use or other sustainability-based decisions, and thus its impact is limited to coordination of voluntary efforts by its members.

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

In 2008 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, which requires that one-third of California’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020. In response, the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), FWS, and BLM signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expedite the permitting process for renewable energy projects, including those on federally owned land in the Mojave Desert region.

The executive order also requires the development of a Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP): a cooperative effort to protect habitats and species authorized under the NCCP Act of 2003. The primary objective of the NCCP program is to conserve natural communities at the ecosystem level while accommodating compatible land use. In the California context, this NCCP is known as the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The DRECP will also produce a habitat conservation plan to comply with the Federal

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

Endangered Species Act (ESA) and a land use plan amendment in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

The DRECP process is led by the Renewable Energy Action Team (REAT), which is a collaboration of state and federal agencies, including those mentioned above. The DRECP includes a Stakeholder Committee and Science Advisory process, and its planning horizon is 25 to 40 years. The DRECP will be implemented through specified conservation, avoidance and minimization measures, and a science-based monitoring and adaptive management program.

Coordinated Management Assessment

The DRECP and DMG involve many common stakeholders, but their purpose and total membership is different. The DRECP is an example of a state–federal collaborative planning process, involving a much wider group of participants and stakeholders than DMG. DMG was chartered to facilitate ongoing collaboration among members in a closed forum. The DRECP has a clearly defined, finite process and regulatory authority over land use for one type of activity—renewable energy projects. While the DRECP has likely benefitted from the existence of DMG, the two processes are not formally connected.

Both the DRECP and DMG are efforts to collaborate across levels of government and agency responsibilities. They were initiated because holistic solutions to complex problems involving energy development, ecosystem conservation, and the public interest could not be developed and implemented by one agency or one governance level. These efforts to achieve sustainable solutions are works in progress, but they are vivid examples of the links needed to achieve those solutions. As this example illustrates, reaching sustainability goals requires partnerships that move beyond traditional organizational boundaries. These partnerships can allow for the coordination of activities and sharing of critical information. Also, employing adaptive approaches can allow for flexibility in anticipating new challenges to address complicated sustainability linkages.

NONURBAN SYSTEMS - Platte River

The Platte River flows through three states, irrigates 2.8 million acres, generates 400 MW of electric power, provides water to 2.5 million people, and supports significant wildlife habitat (Freeman, 2010; Figure 3-4). After a decade of negotiations about how to protect endangered species along the Platte while maintaining the river’s usefulness for irrigation and other purposes, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program was initiated in 2007 through the “Cooperative Agreement for Platte River Research and Other Efforts Relating to Endangered Species Habitat along the Central Platte River, Nebraska” (Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, 2010). The Cooperative Agreement and related documents, signed by the governors of Nebraska, Wyoming, and

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

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FIGURE 3-4 The Platte River Basin. SOURCE: Presentation by David M. Freeman, Colorado State University, April 12, 2012. Reprinted with permission from the University Press of Colorado.

Colorado and by the Secretary of the Interior, establish a shared vision and responsibility for managing the central Platte River. Through the agreement, participants created: 1) a governance structure with which to coordinate decisions and actions among three states, several federal agencies, special districts, power providers, water managers, and the agricultural sector; and 2) a decision framework that links species protection, groundwater and surface water management, power production, and land management.

Though the Platte River Program takes into account multiple water and land uses, it was created in response to statutory responsibilities to protect endangered species (Freeman, 2010). The program sets forth provisions for implementing certain aspects of FWS’s recovery plan for four endangered or threatened species along the Platte River in a context where water is used for multiple purposes in a predominantly agricultural region.1 Specific elements of the program include: (1) recovering more historical patterns of stream flow during relevant times of the year through re-timing of flows and water conservation and supply projects, and (2) enhancing, restoring, and protecting habitats for the four listed species (Scarlett, 2012). The program recognizes the interconnections between groundwater and surface water management. The program’s implementation prompted passage of a groundwater management statute in Nebraska to provide the state with one tool necessary to achieve its program goals.

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1The four species include the endangered whooping crane, least tern, and pallid sturgeon and the threatened piping plover.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

Developing and implementing actions to protect the four endangered species required changes in both land and water management and presented questions about the magnitude, timing, frequency, and temperature of water flows. Scientific uncertainties and complexities made it difficult to determine appropriate actions to address the species’ needs. A key component of the overall Platte River Program—one that helps address these uncertainties—is an Adaptive Management Plan, which provides an iterative process to test hypotheses about management strategies that will most closely achieve program objectives. Monitoring for improvements in river form and function, as well as in the status of the four species, guides decisions about the most appropriate management strategies.

The Cooperative Agreement established a Governance Committee (GC) as the decision-making body for the Platte River Program (Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, 2007). The GC has ten members, representing the three watershed states, two federal agencies (FWS and BOR), water users from each of the three states, and representatives from two environmental organizations. Though all key stakeholders participate, funding is provided by the three states and BOR. Initially, the GC guided a planning process that culminated in a Final Program Agreement signed by the three governors and the Secretary of the Interior in January 2007 (Scarlett, 2012). At the third committee meeting, held in April 2012, presenter David Freeman of Colorado State University noted that the multiparticipant GC operates with clear decision rules that require 9 of 10 members to concur on any major policy decision and 7 of 10 to agree on nonpolicy issues (Freeman, 2012).

The GC, which is responsible for implementing the program, contracted with a private natural resources consulting firm, Headwaters Corporation, to provide ongoing program management. Though FWS has ultimate regulatory responsibility to ensure species protection under the ESA, this novel implementation structure provides a neutral entity to assist in cross-agency coordination. An executive director and technical staff, including a chief ecologist, are responsible for program implementation and report to the GC. The executive director and staff work with official Program Advisory Committees on land, water, and science issues to implement the program’s Land Plan, Water Plan, and Adaptive Management Plan (Scarlett, 2012). The executive director’s office and the GC are advised by an Independent Scientific Advisory Committee on issues related to implementation of the program’s Adaptive Management Plan.

At the second committee meeting held in February 2012, Gerry O’Keefe, executive director of the Headwaters Corporation, stated that the governance structure supports cross-scale and public-private coordination among multiple participants, while participants retain their individual organizational structures and identities (O’Keefe, 2012). Key challenges in shaping the governance structures and processes included deciding where to draw the negotiating boundaries and whom to include at the table. While federal and state governments and agencies have significant funding, regulatory, and decision-making responsibili-

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

ties, local and nonprofit organizations directly participate in program decisionmaking, bringing local knowledge, values, and perspectives into the process.2

The driving factor that initiated action in the Platte River Basin was concern that implementing the Endangered Species Act could have significant consequences for farmers and others in the region. FWS was willing to be part of a neutral authority that brought together the stakeholders. The neutral authority obtained agreement on common goals and on monitoring to test some potential actions, thus employing adaptive management approaches.

COASTAL SYSTEMS - Great Lakes

The Great Lakes of North America are the largest body of fresh water on the planet and the largest coastal system in the lower 48 states of the United States (Figure 3-5). They have played a critical role both historically and currently in the environment, economy, and culture of the North American continent (Swackhamer, 2012). Administratively the Great Lakes are very challenging, involving two countries, eight states, two provinces, and many local governments, native peoples, and other constituencies.

The Great Lakes’ enormous economic, natural resource, and social value, and the need to manage them for the need and benefit of both the United States and Canada, led to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 between the two nations. This treaty has provided the foundation for more than 100 years of shared governance, which has evolved in response to various sustainability challenges to the Great Lakes.

The treaty established the International Joint Commission (IJC). IJC is comprised of three U.S. and three Canadian Commissioners who advise relevant bodies in each government on matters of national interest regarding all shared boundary waters, with a significant emphasis on the Great Lakes. In the 1960s, severe water quality problems in the Great Lakes led to the 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, subsequently modified by protocol in 1978 and 1987, and currently being renegotiated by the two governments.

A number of other governance institutions have arisen over time. The invasion of the sea lamprey and its devastating effect on the valuable native lake trout led to the establishment of the binational Great Lakes Fisheries Commission. A subsequent group, the Great Lakes Commission, was established in 1955 by interstate legislative compact and granted Congressional consent in 1968. It is a unique governmental institution that includes the two Great Lakes Canadian provinces as formal partners. Its charge is to promote the orderly, integrated, and comprehensive development, use, and conservation of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin.

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2These organizations include, for example, irrigation companies, irrigation districts, conservancy districts, public power companies, municipalities, environmental organizations, and others.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

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FIGURE 3-5 The Great Lakes Basin. SOURCE: Presentation by Dave Naftzger, Council of Great Lakes Governors, February 8, 2012. Image courtesy of the Great Lakes Commission.

The sustainability threats to the Great Lakes in the twentieth century include the eutrophication and ecological collapse of Lake Erie, the introduction of invasive species, and the ecological and public health threats of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals. We drew on the response to each of these threats to identify critical lessons learned from Great Lakes governance.

In the 1960s, Lake Erie was experiencing such an overt level of eutrophication that it was declared “dead.” It became an icon for water quality problems, which were caused by excess phosphorus, whose source and actual role was hotly debated. IJC commissioned a number of prominent U.S. and Canadian scientists to model phosphorus dynamics and determine what the acceptable amount of phosphorus loading might be, in the context of what was being discharged from sewage plants. The models were the basis for discharge limits, for a decision by the U.S. EPA and Environment Canada to require primary treatment of sewage, and ultimately for the two nations’ respective Clean Water Act statutes. Thus, IJC led to scientific knowledge that resulted in the Clean Water Act, sewage treatment, and discharge limits for water pollutants such as phosphorus. Without the facilitating and convening role of the IJC, it is not clear what the national trajectory of water quality management of nutrient point sources might have been.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

IJC institutionalized the engagement of stakeholders around the Great Lakes Basin. The area’s populace is actively invited to be engaged in and educated about Great Lakes issues and to participate in biennial meetings about priorities for the Basin. The stakeholder community, including NGOs, is generally well known, visible, and historically very active. For example, activism by this community resulted in a Canadian ban of phosphorus in detergents and the adoption of bans in the United States to reduce levels of the nutrient in water.

The existence of the Boundary Waters Treaty and the international Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has led to other successful institutional arrangements that use science as a foundation for management and policy. For example, the International Association of Great Lakes Research consists of interdisciplinary researchers with a place-based focus. This group includes physical limnologists, fisheries biologists, aquatic biologists, aquatic chemists, ecological and human toxicologists, public health professionals, economists, sociologists, and decision scientists. It also publishes a highly cited journal. Both the U.S. and Canada have multiple federal agency research labs in the Great Lakes Basin focused on the lakes’ problems. Our understanding of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals’ behavior in the environment, accumulation in fish, and toxic effects is due to science that was facilitated by Great Lakes institutions (Swackhamer, 2012).

Another collective effort, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, is currently underway with significant Congressional funding. Cameron Davis, EPA, explained at the second committee meeting in February 2012 that the initiative is based on groundwork laid by an interagency task force of the federal agencies in the Basin (Davis, 2012). This task force was very effective because it already had considerable interagency cooperation and solid relationships in place.

According to Pebbles at the February 2012 second committee meeting, yet another example of institutional arrangements facilitating the use of science for decision making is the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission (Pebbles, 2012), which coordinates fisheries management in a successful partnership with the states and provinces. These partners, who hold ultimate decision-making authority, developed a Joint Strategic Plan for fisheries management based on consensus decision making informed by science, regular monitoring, and accountability. Strong relationships among the Commission, the U.S. government, and the states and provinces have aided the group’s success (Stein, 2012; Figure 3-6).

The Great Lakes case reveals the important role the federal government can play in managing sustainability challenges by establishing and supporting institutions that are sustaining yet adaptable; generating scientific, social, and economic knowledge; and proactively engaging stakeholders regularly and often. The Great Lakes examples confirm that linkages in the form of federal and international agreements can enable government entities and other organizations with multiple responsibilities at multiple scales to manage, lead, and govern sustainably.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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image

FIGURE 3-6 Science-based, Multi-Jurisdictional Fishery Management in the Laurentian Great Lakes: Exploring Federal Roles—Governance/Collaboration/Science-Decision Making. SOURCE: Presentation by Roy Stein, The Ohio State University, February 8, 2012. Image created with J. Dettmers, M. Gaden, and J. Wingfield, Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

COASTAL SYSTEMS - Pacific Northwest

The Bonneville Power Authority and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council

The nearly century-long history of dams on the Columbia River system—with their implications for energy production, water management, agriculture, forestry, recreation, and fish habitat—illustrates many crosscutting challenges in resource use, economics, and human well-being.

Exploitation of the Columbia River system for hydroelectric power and irrigation dates to the 1920s. To promote rural electrification, the Pacific Northwest Regional Planning Commission, with representatives from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, was formed in 1934. In 1937 Congress promulgated the Bonneville Project Act, ultimately giving rise to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in 1940. Electrification was seen as an economic development strategy, as a means of advancing equity between urban and rural communities, and as a path to human well-being.

As environmental awareness grew in the 1970s, attention focused on the impact of BPA’s dams on fish and wildlife (Figure 3-7). In 1980 Congress passed the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, which required BPA to remediate damage done to fish and wildlife by its dams. A newly formed interstate compact agency, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, was tasked with a) regional energy planning; b) fish and wildlife protection planning; and c) engagement of states, local governments, customers, federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and the public. The Act required BPA to cooperate with the Council and required BPA actions to “be consistent with” the Council’s regional conservation and electric power

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
×

plan—an unusual example of state authority over federal agencies, albeit an example of “soft power.”

The Council’s programs have protected and restored habitat for both anadromous and resident fish, launched innovative hatchery and harvest programs, and raised annual fish counts, although not to the very high levels that preceded dam construction. The Council has also been successful at integrating decision making across diverse sectors—energy, habitat restoration, irrigation, and cultural practices—and at engaging diverse publics. In its annual reports to Congress, the Council uses a range of scientific metrics of progress, another successful practice.

BPA and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council represent one of the earliest examples of shared governance with a mission and function beyond a single resource or ecological dimension. Key lessons learned from the management of the Columbia River watershed and its hydroelectric resources include the potential effectiveness of devolving authority from the federal government to regional players, the ability of these regional players to convene voices from diverse sectors, and the benefits of exercising “soft power” rather than rigid authority.

image

FIGURE 3-7 The Columbia River Basin—Accessible and Blocked Habitat. SOURCE: Presentation by Phil Rockefeller, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, February 7, 2012.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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Puget Sound Partnership

A collaborative initiative with very broad participation, the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) is an agency established under an executive order of the Governor of Washington. PSP is a state agency and as a result has a line item budget from the state legislature. The partnership collaborates with EPA and is deeply involved with its Action Plan for Puget Sound and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. PSP includes citizens, tribes, governments, business, and scientists working together with the objective of protecting and restoring the Sound. The primary focus of the partnership, as seen in its goals and objectives, appears to be the ecological health of the Sound and only indirectly the economic, social, and health dimensions of a sustainable region. While those involved in the partnership express a clear understanding of the interdependence of the ecology of Puget Sound and the health and economic well-being of the region’s communities, these considerations are not yet reflected in the partnership’s goals.

PSP is challenged in that it holds no authority to implement its policies, findings, or agreements; this authority instead resides with its member organizations (O’Keefe, 2012). The partnership’s lack of authority has led to problems achieving stated goals. In 2012, PSP’s draft State of the Sound report acknowledged in a review of available data that to date, progress has not been sufficient to meet 2020 recovery targets (PSP, 2012). Of the 21 indicators, PSP found that two showed clear progress, five showed mixed results, seven demonstrated no progress, and seven were considered incomplete because there were no data or because the targets had not been adopted or were still in development (PSP, 2012). A report by the State of Washington Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC, 2013) stated that in a previous review of the Partnership, the 2008 Action Agenda lacked critical accountability tools, which are fundamental to determining whether the funding spent on clean-up efforts is restoring Puget Sound. A 2013 follow up report noted that “while the 2012 Action Agenda has taken steps to improve accountability, it continues to have shortcomings in three key areas: linkages, prioritization, and monitoring” (JLARC, 2013). Specifically, the review notes that the 2012 Action Agenda does not link actions to the amount of progress they will make toward long-term restoration goals. Additionally, a significant amount of funding has been spent on programs that have not been prioritized; although the PSP recommends that all effective ongoing programs be maintained, “it has not identified which ones are effective” (JLARC, 2013). Sufficient mechanisms are not in place to monitor actions in order to understand which ones are working (JLARC, 2013).

In addition, PSP has inadequate representation and participation by land-use authorities. Because land use is such a critical factor affecting ecological, economic, and social health, involving local land-use authorities presents a significant opportunity for collaboration. A 2012 report from the Washington State Academy of Sciences (WSAS) reiterated the importance of land use in the discussion and the need to develop related measures of progress, stating that “many

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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of the important environmental changes caused by humans…result from land use.” WSAS recommended that an indicator set that adequately characterizes the “condition of Puget Sound needs to include indicators that represent the extent of each habitat type and other measures of marine landscape pattern and structure” (WSAS, 2012).

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADDRESSING SUSTAINABILITY LINKAGES:
LESSONS LEARNED

While the examples reviewed by the committee varied in their details, they provide some common themes and insights on ways to enhance sustainability linkages in federal decision making. These lessons address issues of governance, decision-making processes, and science.

1. Iterative improvements: Enhancing governance linkages to address sustainability does not need to occur through disruptive change, and in fact is generally more successful through iterative change with incremental steps. Positive benefits from incremental changes, if documented properly and articulated, can lead to broader and ultimately comprehensive change without the paralysis that can sometimes be associated with proposals for disruptive change. Although the challenges of integrating decision making across domains and among agencies at various levels of government are significant, the examples we examined demonstrate innovations to integrate decisions that vary from modest and iterative steps to more substantial governance redesign. The former initiatives should not be discounted merely because they are smaller, for they can often lead to significant accomplishments. For example, DMG in the Mojave, a pioneering effort to better coordinate information and enhance dialogue among multiple federal, state, and local agencies, did not involve any agency restructuring or any enhanced or new decisionmaking authorities. The primary purpose was to improve dialogue among agencies with responsibilities within a single geographic area, within existing structures and authorities. DMG is an important partnership that built trust and enabled the successful formation and function of the California REAT and the development of the DRECP. Similarly, the success of the effort in Platte River Basin arose largely from the enforcement of an existing regulation implementing the ESA. FWS was willing to be part of a neutral authority that brought together the stakeholders; this neutral authority obtained agreement on common goals and on monitoring to test some potential actions, thus employing adaptive management approaches.

2. Multiple levels of government: Several of the fact-finding examples illustrate that change agents engaged in innovations to strengthen sustainability linkages in decisionmaking arise at all levels of government. Many examples the committee reviewed were initiated at the local or field level (bottom-up), as multiple federal, state, and local agencies strived to grapple with linked issues. Examples drawn from literature include the Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership in the Cienegas Watershed south of Tucson and the Penobscot River Restoration

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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Project in the northeast. In both of these cases, federal agencies are critical partners, but the motivation for action started at a grassroots level. At the same time, the committee also reviewed examples in which national and even international agencies or forums initiated collaborative, interconnecting actions. In some instances, federal laws may have prompted the need for regulatory compliance, which in turn motivated creative local action to integrate decisions across interconnected agencies and issues. For example, EPA regulations regarding CSO control triggered a need for Philadelphia to bring its infrastructure into compliance. The high costs of traditional compliance tools prompted the city to explore nonstructural alternatives, including extensive expansion of permeable surfacing. The extent of transformation needed to meet the stormwater regulations motivated the city to work across multiple agencies and examine co-benefits in other domains. In the Great Lakes, a longstanding international treaty provided a forum that helped spark action at international, state, and local levels to address water quality needs in the region. Even within the Great Lakes context, however, some actions have been largely locally motivated. In addition, it is important to note that local and statewide policy efforts can also play a major role in sustainability efforts.

3. Network governance: Several of the examples examined by the committee illustrate the emergence of network governance models to enhance coordinated decision making and address sustainability linkages. The concept of network governance surfaced first in the private sector as corporations working together on joint projects developed horizontal, or shared, governance structures. Applications of network governance models are also appearing in the public sector (Goldsmith and Eggers, 2004). Such governance is characterized by a polycentric (multi-participant, multi-agency) approach, often operating with self-constituted decision rules determined through negotiation and cooperative agreements among participants. These governance structures provide a fabric for cross-domain, interagency, and public-private coordination without restructuring existing agencies or reallocating statutory authorities. Examples reviewed by the committee include the Platte River Recovery Governance Committee structure and decision process, the California Renewable Energy Action Team, and the Puget Sound Partnership. Numerous other examples vary along a continuum from loosely knit confederations to congressionally authorized, formal, interagency coordinating structures.

4. Stakeholders at the table: The importance of having a full and adequate representation of all affected stakeholders in partnerships and other forms of collaborative governance structures is well understood. In addition, the necessity of reaching consensus on goals, roles, responsibilities, and accountability is well documented (NRC, 2011b). Also, the committee recognizes the importance of having an agreed-upon process for decisionmaking that allows for a balanced evaluation of different development scenarios under the sustainability lens. Examination of the more successful collaborative governance efforts—the Bonneville Power Authority, the Platte River Recovery Program, and the Mojave DMG—highlighted the importance of full participation by parties that repre-

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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sented the key drivers affecting sustainable outcomes. In each of these cases, the organizations responsible for activities with the greatest influence on regional sustainability (Bonneville Power on the Columbia River, the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska on the Platte River, and federal land agencies in the Mojave) were central to the collaborative effort. Their support of consensus goals and implementation was critical. Conversely, within Puget Sound, the parties responsible for land use, a very important driver affecting the economy, human well-being, and environmental quality, are not included in the Puget Sound Partnership.3 In this case, a more complete analysis of the problems in the region during the framing process and the identification of all relevant players, as described in the committee’s proposed decision framework (see Chapter 4), would have enhanced the effectiveness of the partnership. Land-use authorities in some other locales do participate in collaborative governance efforts, however. One example in the literature is the Boston Harbor Island National Recreation Area, a network governance structure that plans and manages a mosaic of state, local, and nonprofit lands; the group includes federal, state, and local agencies with land management responsibilities (Boston Harbor Islands Partnership Charter, 2006).

5. Mutual learning, interdisciplinary partnering, and trust: A strong science base with open dialogue and partnering among scientists, decision makers, and stakeholders is a hallmark of successful sustainability efforts. Joint research efforts on the Great Lakes that involve academic and government laboratories in both the United States and Canada led to federal standards in both countries to improve water quality and to sustain commercial and recreational fisheries. The power of long-term research in maintaining biodiversity was clearly evident in partnerships between the ASU-led CAP LTER project (supported by NSF and others) and local officials and NGOs in Phoenix. Similarly, open sharing of data, research findings, and ecosystem maps among stakeholders was critical to finding a path forward for the DMG of the Mojave. Research on connections between violent crime and vacant lots led to partnerships between NGOs and the City of Philadelphia to promote “greening” efforts. Partnerships between fisheries experts from government laboratories and academia, as well as between decision makers and other stakeholders, played a key role in protecting salmon at the Bonneville dam. These examples demonstrate that interdisciplinary, place-based research is often a vital part of addressing sustainability linkages. For example, increased temperatures disproportionally affect vulnerable populations in urban area heat islands. Predictive models of climate change indicate that temperatures will increase in Phoenix by mid-century to potentially dangerous levels (heat waves with durations of up to 52 days with temperatures above 122 degrees F). More broadly, changes in climate will im-

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3To a significant extent, achievement of the goals of the Puget Sound Partnership relative to salmon habitat and population, water quality, regional transportation systems, climate change adaptation, and many others could not be achieved without agreement on land use.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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pact a range of disease vectors and will require planning and preparation to protect vulnerable populations.

6. Adaptive management: Many sustainability challenges that involve interconnections among domains—for example, transportation, energy, water, health, and species protection—are complex and dynamic, resulting in uncertainties about current interactions among variables, cause-effect relationships, and projected future conditions. As a consequence of this complexity and uncertainty, participants in a number of the examples we examined are using an adaptive management approach, as described in the decision framework (see Chapter 4). Adaptive management enables participants to set goals, undertake actions, monitor the effects of those actions on outcomes, and, most importantly, make adjustments as needed. In the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan, adaptive management processes help managers address uncertainties regarding what water management regimes will best meet the needs of endangered species while, at the same time, sustaining sufficient water for agriculture, energy, and other uses. In addition, this approach was attributed with helping the plan’s participants transcend scientific disagreements regarding the amount and timing of water flows necessary for species protection. To date, application of adaptive management has had limited implementation success in changing management actions based on experimentation and monitoring (Murray and Marmorek, 2004; Kimberly et al., 2006). However, recent assessments of adaptive management indicate that effectiveness in using the approach can be enhanced by: 1) starting with a simple plan and adding complexity over time; and 2) engaging researchers at all stages of the process (Kimberly et al., 2006).

7. Creative approaches to problem-solving can add value and provide multiple benefits or co-benefits to participants: Innovative thinking that crosses domains can result in sustainability solutions that increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness and that create win-win scenarios. For example, Philadelphia dealt with the treatment of storm water by providing a cost-effective solution that resulted in multiple benefits. Working with decision makers at EPA, the city was able to reduce the need for additional costly infrastructure improvements by utilizing a variety of approaches to reduce the volume of water run-off and to take advantage of natural ameliorative processes in soils and subsurface environments. At the same time, this green infrastructure approach was shown by the city to achieve co-benefits for outdoor recreation, public health, education, and the local economy.

8. Communications: Sustainability solutions need to be communicated in a way that clearly identifies both the costs and benefits of action and inaction. For example, Philadelphia got an enormous boost for its approach when sustainability became a plank in the mayoral campaign. An effective communications strategy is important not only at the outset to engage major and important constituencies, but also throughout the process in keeping key stakeholders and the public generally aware of the progress being made and the work that still needs to be done. Effective communications and stakeholder participation also promotes transparency and accountability.

Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Examples of Sustainability Connections and Linkages." National Research Council. 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13471.
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A "sustainable society," according to one definition, "is one that can persist over generations; one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either its physical or its social system of support." As the government sector works hard to ensure sufficient fresh water, food, energy, housing, health, and education for the nation without limiting resources for the future generations, it's clear that there is no sufficient organization to deal with sustainability issues. Each federal agency appears to have a single mandate or a single area of expertise making it difficult to tackle issues such as managing the ecosystem. Key resource domains, which include water, land, energy, and nonrenewable resources, for example, are nearly-completely connected yet different agencies exist to address only one aspect of these domains.

The legendary ecologist John Muir wrote in 1911 that "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." Thus, in order for the nation to be successful in sustaining its resources, "linkages" will need to be built among federal, state, and local governments; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and the private sector. The National Research Council (NRC) was asked by several federal agencies, foundations, and the private sector to provide guidance to the federal government on issues related to sustainability linkages. The NRC assigned the task to as committee with a wide range of expertise in government, academia, and business. The committee held public fact-finding meetings to hear from agencies and stakeholder groups; examined sustainability management examples; conducted extensive literature reviews; and more to address the issue. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connection and Governance Linkages is the committee's report on the issue.

The report includes insight into high-priority areas for governance linkages, the challenges of managing connected systems, impediments to successful government linkages, and more. The report also features examples of government linkages which include Adaptive Management on the Platte River, Philadelphia's Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and Managing Land Use in the Mojave.

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