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Past Projects

Voluntary Stewardship Program

In 2007, Washington’s Governor and Legislature—along with agricultural, tribal, environmental and local government representatives—asked the Center to assist in resolving long-standing conflict over the protection and enhancement on agricultural lands of environmentally “critical areas” under Washington’s Growth Management Act. This conflict, more than a decade old, has spawned lawsuits, appeals, legislative battles and a voter initiative. In Substitute Senate Bills 5248 and 6520, the parties involved reached a compromise for a moratorium on counties adopting amendments to critical areas ordinances with respect to agricultural activities while participating stakeholders developed recommendations to resolve the long-standing disagreements. The Center was designated to coordinate fact-finding research and facilitate the discussions. The aim was to develop solutions, policies and practices that ensure protection of environmentally sensitive areas in ways that support the preservation of farm lands and a strong farm economy.

In September 2010, the Agriculture and Critical Areas (Ag CA) Committee reached agreement on a framework for a Voluntary Stewardship Program. The Center submitted a Final Report on the process in October 2010 that included this framework. The Ag CA Committee established a Legislative Subcommittee to turn the framework into proposed legislation for implementing the Program and the Center facilitated their discussions. This legislation was introduced in the Washington State House and the Senate in February 2011, and passed the legislature in April 2011 as ESHB 1886. On May 16, 2011, Governor Gregoire signed ESHB 1886, creating the Voluntary Stewardship Program.

The Washington State Conservation Commission (which the legislation designates as the lead state agency) and the parties to the agreement asked the Center to continue its involvement, believing the Center's neutrality, experience with these issues/parties and expertise in collaborative processes would continue to be helpful as the agencies and parties begin early implementation. With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the Center remained involved during the first two years of implementation.

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Public Records Act Assessment

The 2013–15 Washington State Operating Budget contained a proviso directing the Center to “collaborate with representatives of the public, the media, and local governments regarding public records requests made to local government” and “report to the appropriate committees of the Legislature,” including "recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments." The report included recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments. The Center’s report was derived from a situation assessment, an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. The Center reached out to a balanced cross-section of parties to capture a wide range of perspectives. Interview candidates were identified via the Center’s background research, selection criteria, and/or referral. The assessment articulated the major issues and key parties involved, and documented their interests and perspectives. It also analyzed and explored the prospects for a collaborative process to address those issues. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.

Read the Report (388 KB PDF)

Puget Sound Monitoring

The Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) has asked the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct a review of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP), to assess whether essential characteristics, particularly transparent decision-making, availability and credibility of data, and accountability and trust, are being achieved. Such a review was included in the resolution that created PSEMP to evaluate progress towards ecosystem recovery and improve the scientific basis for management actions throughout Puget Sound. The Center interviewed involved parties and stakeholders to capture a wide range of perspectives about whether these characteristics are were achieved and prepared a report outlining key findings and recommendations for improvement. For more information, contact Project Manager Amanda Murphy.

Read the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program Review Report (600 KB PDF)

Columbia River Salmon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) asked the Ruckelshaus Center - in partnership with Oregon Consensus at Portland State University - to conduct a situation assessment of regional views about salmon and steelhead recovery planning in the Columbia River Basin over the long term. A situation assessment is an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. An assessment team featuring practitioner and academic expertise from Washington, Oregon and Idaho reached out to a broad array of regional parties over several months to capture the full range of perspectives.

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Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council

In the fall of 2010, coastal Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) and Washington State natural resource agencies began discussing the need for a Washington coast-wide group to advise the State on ocean policy issues and provide local perspectives on - and solutions to - marine resource issues, projects and conflicts. Coastal MRCs organized a series of discussions to outline the purpose and role of a coastal group and developed a recommendation to the State Ocean Caucus (SOC) to form a coastal stakeholder advisory body. The Washington State Department of Ecology, on behalf of the SOC and the Governor's Office, is coordinating the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC) focusing on marine and ocean policy issues on Washington's Pacific Ocean Coast (from Cape Flattery south), including the estuaries of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the lower Columbia River. At request of the stakeholders who helped design the process, Ecology retained the Center to serve as neutral convener, providing facilitation and coordination services to support the WCMAC in conducting its meetings and reaching decisions. For more information, visit the Department of Ecology's website.

Northwest Environment and Natural Resouces Forum

The Center collaborated with the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, the Policy Consensus Initiative at Portland State University, and the Oregon Natural Resources Institute on this project intended to promote collaborative decision making on public policy in the Pacific Northwest. The goal of the Northwest Environment and Natural Resources Forum was to provide a neutral place for regional environmental leaders from federal, state, local and tribal governments to identify emerging issues of mutual interest and map a strategy for addressing them. The idea was to give these leaders an opportunity to step back from every-day challenges, interact with one another and coordinate efforts to address complex, cross-cutting issues before they become conflicts. The Forum met regularly to identify issues, and reviewed issue assessments and process design recommendations. The Center served on the Steering Committee for this project.

William Ruckelshaus Oral History

Douglas Brinkley has published extensively on American environmental history, including the widely-acclaimed "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America" and the recently-published "The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960." He has written about American leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Henry Ford, and conducted oral histories of Neil Armstrong, Stuart Udall and others. As part of his upcoming book on 1960-70's environmental policy, Dr. Brinkley interviewed Bill Ruckelshaus (the first and fifth director of the EPA), to create an oral history of Bill's life and remarkable contributions to public service, corporate leadership and collaborative policy. The oral history has been archived at the university libraries and on the website of TVW (Washington state's version of C-SPAN). It will also be distilled down to a broadcast quality program that will air on TVW.

To find out more on this project watch the oral history on TVW, media availability, or read the Crosscut and Washington State Magazine articles or UW and WSU media releases.

The Ruckelshaus Oral History premiered on TVW on Thursday, January 17, 2013. Watch the full video or watch the portion discussing the Ruckelshaus Center.

Whatcom Jobs Summit

In September 2012, the Ruckelshaus Center facilitated the Whatcom Jobs Summit, a one-day event that brought together stakeholders representing business, labor, environment and government in Whatcom County. The purpose of the Summit was to promote the removal of barriers to local job growth through productive dialogue, fostering new relationships and the development of action steps for the community. Staff from the Center partnered with practitioners from the WSU Whatcom County Extension Office and Western Washington University's College of Business and Economics to provide neutral facilitation for an event that included a panel of elected officials, "speed dating" matrix dialogues, a keynote address, breakout group discussion, report-backs from the elected officials and a lively discussion of next steps and action items. The Steering Committee hopes to make this an annual event.

Nurse Staffing

Between 2007 and 2012, the Center assisted in resolving long-standing disagreements concerning hospital staffing decisions. Concerns by the parties included the effects of nurse staffing levels in hospitals, patient safety, costs and working conditions for nurses. Numerous studies have been conducted for this national issue, yet no accepted resolution has been developed. In 2007, the Center held an initial forum between the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives; SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, United Staff Nurses, UFCW 141, the Washington State Hospital Association, and the Washington State Nurses Association, in which they reached an agreement to work together. In 2008, these parties signed an agreement at a ceremony with Governor Gregoire to begin discussions facilitated by the Center. The goal of all parties in the discussion was to develop a model solution for this pressing problem in health policy.

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Surplus Salmon

The Washington State Legislature included in its 2010 budget a proviso directing the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to “work with appropriate stakeholders to facilitate the disposition of salmon (at hatcheries) to best utilize the resource, increase revenues to regional fisheries enhancement groups, and enhance the provision of nutrients to food banks.” The proviso instructed WDFW to provide a report summarizing the resulting discussions, outcomes and recommendations, and to give due consideration to the recommendations before awarding a new disposal contract. WDFW asked the Center to provide services to support stakeholder engagement and the development of recommendations. These services include: 1) economic analysis; 2) an interview-based situation assessment; 3) recommendations for a stakeholder involvement process; and 4) facilitation of meetings between WDFW and appropriate stakeholders. The Center’s project team included faculty and staff from the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services and the UW School of Marine Affairs. After the stakeholder meetings, WFDW Director Phil Anderson thanked the Center for its assistance saying, “The expertise, project oversight, and process insight that you and your colleagues brought to the process was instrumental in bringing the collaborative process to a successful outcome.”

read the report (3 MB PDF)

Northwest Marine Trade Association/Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

The Center conducted this short-term project to put an important collaborative relationship back on track. In 2007, NMTA, PSA and the Washington State Department of Ecology developed and signed an agreement describing how they would work together to address concerns over water pollution from bottom paint and other sources at boatyards. In December 2009, PSA—frustrated with what they saw as an unacceptably slow pace of implementation—filed a notice of intent to sue five NMTA member boatyards for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act relating to these issues. NMTA suggested—and PSA agreed—that the Center become involved to help the parties resolve their dispute. The Center facilitated several meetings at which the parties agreed to a series of steps aimed at repairing their working alliance. NMTA and PSA are again working cooperatively, and have thanked the Center for its assistance. This collaboration led to an important outcome in 2011—legislation (SB 5436) that makes Washington the first state in the nation to phase out copper in antifouling paints used on recreational water vessels.

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Watershed Partnerships

In April 2010, the Center facilitated a one-day convening on stormwater that brought together grantees of the Russell Family Foundation, Bullitt Foundation and Northwest Fund for the Environment on issues relating to stormwater and green infrastructure. The purpose was to: 1). examine emerging issues surrounding stormwater nationally, state-wide and locally; 2) encourage collaboration; and 3) explore potential next steps. In September 2011, the Russell Foundation asked to the Center to facilitate meetings the Foundation was hosting between its staff and leaders in the Hood Canal and Puyallup watersheds.

Partnership for Sustainable Communities

The Center worked with the National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) at Portland State University to provide support to the Northwest regional offices of three federal agencies (EPA, HUD and DOT) who launched the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership is an agreement to coordinate federal housing, transportation and environmental investments, policies, programs and resources to build more sustainable urban, suburban and rural communities. Building on an Oregon Community Dialogue hosted by Oregon State University and facilitated by NPCC, the Center facilitated a Washington Community Dialogue. This session was hosted by the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies and brought together approximately 150 people from across Washington state working on housing, transportation and environmental issues in the federal, state, tribal, local, private, NGO, academic and other sectors to discuss barriers, opportunities, actions and funding.

read the report (2.5 MB PDF)

AWC Mayors Exchange

The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) Mayors Exchange provides mayors and city executives from throughout the state an opportunity to meet each other, discuss concerns and glean best practices. In addition to networking time, each Mayors Exchange focuses on a different topic, delving into important issues facing communities and the state. AWC asked the Center to facilitate the April 2011 Mayors Exchange in Yakima, which featured a discussion about successful partnership models from different communities; tips for overcoming interjurisdictional conflict; and ways jurisdictions have maximized resources through collaboration. The Center helped mayors and administrators from over 30 municipalities consider current and future opportunities in the context of a continuum of partnerships, from communication to consolidation.

WSU Water Forum

The Ruckelshaus Center was asked to facilitate a one-day forum for faculty and students at WSU in November 2010. The goals of the forum were to: 1) provide a setting for WSU faculty and students to learn what their colleagues are doing on water issues; 2) develop a strategic vision for water issues at WSU; and 3) propel collaborations and partnerships that address key water challenges. The Forum featured a keynote address by Jay Manning, Chief of Staff to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. The Center facilitated a panel discussion, "speed dating" exercise, breakout groups on potential action items, and report-backs on next steps. The forum demonstrated the value the Center can bring when it partners with entities at one or both universities to bring real world issues to academic setting.

read the report (660 KB PDF)

Walla Walla Water Management Initiative

Members of the Walla Walla Basin Community are working to improve water management to support municipal, agricultural and other water uses, while also providing for the needs of federally protected fish species. In conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology, they asked the Center to generate a report identifying existing capacities to support an effective integrated water management system for the Basin. The project also involved collecting local input and identifying areas where consensus may exist, and where concerns may need to be addressed, in order to implement watershed and salmon recovery.

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Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Evaluation

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative is a unique local governance mechanism that employs a collaborative approach to preserve ecosystems, while respecting existing economic and community uses of marine resources. In 2004, the Center managed a federally-mandated independent evaluation of the Initiative. Convening a committee of scientific and other experts, the Center staffed the performance review. What the panel found was one of the most innovative applications of volunteer action anywhere in the country. The credibility and thoroughness of the evaluation led to a stronger mandate and increased federal support for the Initiative.

read the report (1 MB PDF)

Agricultural Pilots Project

At the request of the Washington Governor’s office, the Center provided leadership in developing the Agricultural Pilots Project. The goal of the project was to underwrite pilots that held the potential of demonstrating increased profitability to agriculture, while providing environmental benefits. Guided by an advisory group drawn from involved stakeholders, the Center conducted nearly 200 consultations with environmental, agricultural, tribal and community representatives. In the 2007 legislative session, the Governor and Legislature provided funding for a “proof of concept” phase in which four pilot projects were conducted. The Center was responsible for monitoring the pilots and evaluating the feasibility of an ongoing Agricultural Pilots program that would be managed by an appropriate state agency. A final report was submitted in 2009.

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Shared Salmon Strategy Assessment

In an effort to learn lessons of value in natural resource recovery, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) asked the Center to examine the process that led to the successful development of the Shared Strategy Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Fall Chinook Salmon. The Shared Strategy is a unique watershed plan for the complex Puget Sound region. It was developed voluntarily by a bottom-up process involving concerned citizens, tribal leaders, environmental advocates, businesses, local government representatives, and state and federal agencies, who were assisted by a local non-profit. It is one of only a few federally-approved plans for species recovery under the Endangered Species Act.

read the summary report (750 KB PDF) or full report (3MB PDF)

Farm Safety Regulatory Reform Case Study

In an effort to bring lessons learned from the Center’s work into the universities’ curriculum, the Center developed a farm safety regulatory reform case study. The study examines the use of collaborative problem solving principles in a regulatory context. The five-part series focuses on conflicts over controversial efforts to regulate farm worker safety. The case study demonstrates to students how to use data and different analytical techniques to assess a circumstance, be aware of the interests and concerns of the involved parties, use regulatory mandates to gain compliance, and enhance confidence of involved parties.

Water Resource Administration & Funding Task Force

The Water Resources Administration and Funding Task Force was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2004. As directed by the Legislature, the Department of Ecology requested that specified interest groups identify representatives to participate on the Task Force to develop proposals and recommend options for funding the state's water resource programs. It also invited the Center to facilitate the meetings and provide staff support for the effort. During the nine meetings of the Task Force, the group collected and reviewed water resources program information, budget data and funding source data. Based on this information, the Task Force developed a set of findings and conclusions designed to guide policy makers in developing a funding package for both operating and capital support.

read the report (685 KB PDF)

Washington Water Acquisition Program

Mark Twain once said, “In the West whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” Washington State reflects Twain’s statement, where water programs are rarely without controversy. The Washington Water Acquisition Program was no exception. Under this voluntary, incentive-based program, the Department of Ecology acquired water rights for the purpose of increasing stream flows to improve salmon habitat and survival. However, skepticism of the program among some agricultural communities led Ecology to seek an evaluation of the public acceptance and perception of their efforts. In 2003, Ecology invited the Center to provide an independent and neutral review of the program. The Center found that, where properly applied to local conditions, water rights acquisition is a potentially useful tool. However, in many parts of the state, significant barriers existed to improving receptivity.

read the report (329 KB PDF)

Workers' Compensation

The Center worked with business, labor and the state government as they struggled through issues surrounding workers' compensation policy, an issue affecting many other states. The Center provided negotiation assistance to the parties in evaluating whether to go forward with reform, and if so, how. Through a safe, neutral forum for the parties they explored the issues and context in which progress might be made. Such a forum provides the opportunity to create a greater mutual understanding of the issues, obstacles and possibilities. Together with the parties, the Center helped establish a process for substantive dialogue that improved key business, labor and political relationships and preserved potential for reform in the future.

Updated on February 12, 2015

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center, PO Box 646248, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6248, 509-335-2937, Contact Us