Triangle Associates, Inc., Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Two hundred people milled about the reception area at Port Ludlow Resort in Washington State. Representing federal, state, tribal, and local governments, businesses, non-profit groups, and watershed planning councils, they were here to participate in a forum to cement commitment to the “Shared Strategy for Salmon Recovery in Puget Sound”(1). The agenda was to discuss how to coordinate existing and emerging efforts to recover endangered salmon and bull trout species across twelve counties (including the largest urban areas) of the Puget Sound region. The Shared Strategy hopes to fundamentally change how people interact with the land to ensure the long-term viability of salmon and the natural resources critical to their survival (2). The group faces a huge challenge-how to reverse fish habitat degradation and ensure economic viability in the most populous part of the state. Although still evolving, the Shared Strategy effort with its complex public policy problems and multiple stakeholders with diverse interests and turf issues, provides a rich example of the challenges and rewards of managing conflicts within a collaborative framework.
As one of the facilitators, I wanted to learn how people felt about cooperating with disparate organizations to save salmon. I leaned in close so I could hear responses to my questions through the rising noise level in the small hotel lobby.
“Oh, it probably won't work, ” two men from state agencies told me. “We're only here because our boss told us to come.”
“They tried something like this with the Tri-county process (referring to the three largest urban counties in Western Washington), ” said a county official,