In recent years many theorists and practitioners have called for more public involvement in policymaking and for greater citizen input in decisions. The move toward participatory and community-based approaches in policymaking can be seen as a backlash against more elitist technocratic, top-down models of decisionmaking. Using a case study of a successful National Forest planning exercise, this research investigated whether a participatory or elite model characterized the decisionmaking process. The findings indicated that neither an elite nor participatory model of decisionmaking dominated in the planning process; rather, both forms of decisionmaking contributed to important elements in formulating this successful National Forest plan.
One of the hallmarks of natural resource management in the late 1980s and 1990s has been the refocusing of management decisions to more decentralized levels of governance and public involvement in these management decisions (John, 1996; John & Mlay, 1998; Kenney, 1997; Selin & Chavez, 1995; Yaffee, Phillips, Frentz, & Thorpe, 1996; Wondolleck & Yaffee, 2000). The move toward these participatory and community-based approaches can be seen as a backlash against more elitist technocratic, top-down models of policymaking that historically have been prevalent in natural resource management institutions (Brunson & Kennedy, 1995; Kessler & Salwasser, 1995; Meidinger, 1996; Randolf & Bauer, 1999).
In the decades prior to the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, agency managers, bureaucrats, and professionals were trusted for the most part by the public in their management of natural resources. As the social context surrounding natural resource management began to change in the 1960s, various environmental advocacy groups questioned the conventional wisdom that drove management, and the methods, values, and philosophies that were reflected in natural resource decisions (MacDonnell & Bates, 1993). Arguing for broader representation of "public" and "community" values in natural resource decisionmaking, citizen groups and environmentalists were successful in securing avenues of access to the halls where such decisions were made and in decentralizing the locus of decisionmaking (Rupert, 1995; Vawter, 1995).
The new processes that have broadened the scope of involvement raise questions about how the previous "elite" or expertise-driven model of decisionmaking should be balanced with the newer "participatory" model (National Research Council, 1996; Webler & Tuler, 1999). Clearly there are benefits and limitations to both. For instance, a more participatory approach means that the public can contribute to the management of resources by providing pragmatic support and substantive information to professional managers (Fiorino, 1990) as well as enhance social goals (Beierle, 1999; McAvoy, 1999). However, more participatory efforts can have their drawbacks (Cupps, 1977; Glass, 1979; Rosener, 1978; Sewell & Phillips, 1979). They can be time- and resource-intensive. They can be unrepresentative. They can cause controversy and incite conflict. And they might not work.
These more participatory approaches also can overlook, and perhaps underplay, the role of scientific and bureaucratic expertise. The role for the technical or bureaucratic professional often has been emphasized in natural resource decisionmaking due to the scientific complexities associated with these issues (Hardin, 1968; Heilbronner, 1974; Ophuls & Boyan, 1992). The justifications for choosing an elite approach revolve around a belief in the competency of the bureaucracy, faith in the expert's ability to choose, and possession of informational and technical expertise (Schumpeter, 1962; Weber, 1946). Implied in this model is skepticism of the public's ability to express and articulate their preferences, contribute useful knowledge to the process, and influence the policy meaningfully. So this school holds that involving the public can be disruptive, costly, time consuming, and inefficient, because they are not capable of participating effectively. Nevertheless, professional experts also have their faults. Th ey can be myopic in their outlook, fail to consider important communities and points of view, respond to institutional incentives that are counterproductive to achieving a workable policy solution, and be arrogant and offensive in the process (Berry, Portney, & Thomson, 1993). Political theorists have criticized the elite model of decisionmaking based on the fact that natural resource issues also involve social complexities, such as value judgments and ethical decisions, for which science has no unequivocal answers (CaIdwell, 1993; Hays, 1987). Accordingly, these theorists suggest a more open or participatory decisionmaking process, for it is only in a deliberative forum that differing values and interpretations of factual evidence can be mediated (Gundersen, 1995; Paehlke, 1988; Press, 1994).
This article uses elite and participatory democratic theory to illustrate how these two approaches were evidenced in a case study of a "successful" National Forest planning process1 that took place on the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) in West Virginia. The following sections include a discussion of recent trends toward greater participation, a description of elite and participatory democratic theories, some background on the role of public involvement in National Forest management, a discussion of the MNF case study, and the lessons that flow from the research. The premise at the outset of the study was that a more participatory decision would be affiliated with success in this case. The findings revealed that elite and participatory practices were both important to crafting a successful natural resource management decision and detailed how elite and participatory approaches inform each other.
Trends Toward Greater Participation
For many years, complex social problems coupled with increasingly sophisticated technologies placed participation in decisionmaking arenas out of the reach of many citizens. Professionalism and specialization increased to distance the common person from the language, processes, and institutions where decisions were debated and occurred. While relevant for many policy areas, this trend especially was true in the realm of environmental and natural resource policy (Hill, 1992). Given the unique characteristics of natural resource and environmental policy, such as impacts on future generations, the integration of natural and social sciences, the potential to cause irreparable harm to ecosystems, and benefits and costs that accrued beyond immediate boundaries, the question of how natural resource decisions should be made has been particularly challenging.
In the past 25 years, the opportunities for the public to participate in environmental and natural resource decisionmaking have expanded greatly. And in some decisions that have continued to exclude public involvement, various groups and individuals have mobilized to obstruct or prevent certain policy decisions from being implemented (Mazmanian & Morell, 1990; Popper, 1985). Having been excluded from the decisionmaking process, protesting publics feel their only avenue of recourse is to block the policy outcome. The resulting not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) behavior can be seen as an exercise of participation of last resort.
Rising education levels, increased information about the environmental impacts of resource use, and increasingly savvy protest techniques have combined to make the general public a more formidable opponent to be excluded from the decisionmaking processes that affect their lives (Freudenberg & Steinsapir, 1992). Nonetheless, determining how to involve the public in more participatory decisionmaking processes or determining which structures and techniques facilitate effective public involvement remain a challenge to policymakers. Undergirding these realities of public participation are normative beliefs about the capabilities and limitations of the public and the theories that drive our conceptions about democracy and decisionmaking.
Democratic Theories Applied to Policymaking
Two broad schools of democratic thought have influenced how we view the role of the public in decisionmaking. Participatory democratic theorists promote including the general populace in the decisionmaking effort (Bachrach, 1967; Barber, 1984; deToqueville, 1988 ; Mansbridge, 1983; Pateman, 1970; Rousseau, 1919 ). By doing so, not only is the policy developed, but so is the individual's ability to participate in society. In contrast, elite democratic theory has assumed a more exclusionary role for the public (Berelson, Lazarfeld, & MePhee, 1954; Crozier, Huntington, & Watanuki, 1975; Dahl, 1956; Madison, 1987 ; Sartori, 1973). Policymaking, in this view, is best left to the domain of experts and thus is protected from the capricious influence of a potentially uneducated and impassioned public.
There are specific characteristics that are unique to each democratic theoretic viewpoint, as Table 1 illustrates. Elite theorists believe in a more limited or passive role for the public that should be exercised only on a periodic basis. (Locke, 1988 ). The locus of decisionmaking power is vested in a bureaucratic or technical elite that is seen as being the most capable actor in making policy decisions (Schumpeter, 1950 ; Weber, 1947). These theorists value democracy instrumentally, meaning they view democracy as a means to an end and not as an end itself (Schumpeter, 1950 ). Elite theorists perceive the bureaucracy as worthy of trust and professionally competent. The primary concern of elite theorists with regard to public involvement rests with ensuring efficiency and stability in the political system (Crozier et al., 1975). To that end, they promote a "rational" decisionmaking process. The form of public participation advocated by elites is voting and the ratifying of leadership (Schump eter, 1950 ). If the public is disgruntled with the decisions or policies made on its behalf, they are invited periodically to continue to endorse or reject their leadership. Finally, the elite theorists view the capacities of the public very skeptically, stating that the public is apathetic, easily manipulated, and uninformed (Berelson et al., 1954; …