Scholars, scientists, and policymakers have hailed ecosystem-based management (EBM) as a remedy for the perceived shortcomings of the centralized, top-down, expert-driven environmental regulatory framework established in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. EBM entails collaborative, landscape-scale planning and flexible, adaptive implementation. But, although scholars have analyzed aspects of EBM for more than a decade, until now there has been no systematic empirical study of the overall approach.
In "Natural Experiments", Judith Layzer provides a detailed assessment of whether EBM delivers in practice the environmental benefits it promises in theory. She does this by examining four nationally known EBM initiatives (the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Program in Austin, Texas, the San Diego Multiple Species Program, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and the California Bay-Delta Program) and three comparison cases that used more conventional regulatory approaches (Arizona's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and efforts to restore Florida's Kissimmee River and California's Mono Basin).
Layzer concludes that projects that set goals based on stakeholder collaboration, rather than through conventional politics, are less likely to result in environmental improvement, largely because the pursuit of consensus drives planners to avoid controversy and minimize short-term costs. Layzer's resolutely practical focus cuts through the ideological and theoretical arguments for and against EBM to identify strategies that hold genuine promise for restoring the ecological resilience of our landscapes.
Judith A. Layzer is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is the author of The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy.
Ecosystem-based management has been widely heralded by a diverse range of scholars and practitioners in recent decades. Judith Layzer steps back and takes a careful look at efforts to apply this approach in very diverse settings, challenging a good deal of conventional analysis along the way. This is not a search and destroy mission but rather an unusually thoughtful look at just how EBM works, considering not only process-based outputs but tackling the much-tougher question of whether it fosters superior environmental protection. --Barry Rabe, Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan "With a clear focus on actual conservation achievements, Judith Layzer examines an array of ecosystem-based management initiatives to assess just how this new model for landscape-scale planning is working. Her insightful and provocative conclusions--more conventional political approaches seem to outperform collaborative ones--are a sobering caution for the road ahead." --Robert B. Keiter, Wallace Stegner Professor of Law, University of Utah, author of Keeping Faith with Nature "While many others have addressed issues of ecosystem management, Layzer is one of the few to provide a comparative assessment of several cases by the same author, using the same analytical framework. This book is significant for several reasons. First, it provides useful information for seven intriguing cases. Layzer does this in a lively, informed style. Second, it provides important lessons for debates regarding issues such as the impact of collaborative planning and adaptive management. Third, it contributes to efforts to improve ecosystems." --William Lowry, Washington University in St. Louis