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Natural resource issues are complex—economically, socially, institutionally, politically, and ecologically—and managing natural resources responsibly for the future is becoming increasingly difficult. Conflicts arise over such issues as endangered species protection, forest management, energy production, water allocation, and rural development. People with a stake in these issues must build on common interests to create new solutions.
Our collaborative solutions work brings people together to build lasting, informed, inclusive solutions to our most complex and controversial natural resource challenges. We support natural resource decision making through collaborative leadership training, stakeholder engagement, and helping to build collaborative capacity throughout Wyoming and across the West.
The Ruckelshaus Institute also offers fellowships to connect practitioners in relevant natural resource fields to the scholars and researchers at the university. Learn more and meet our past fellows here ->
The Collaboration Program in Natural Resources (CPNR) provides professional training for a cohort of mid- and upper-level natural resource decision makers and engaged citizens. In six rigorous sessions, participants will gain skills and knowledge to apply collaborative processes to complex environment and natural resource challenges to build lasting, supported solutions. We accept 12 to 16 participants into the program each year. The application deadline for the next cohort is May 30, 2021.
We provide neutral, third-party facilitation and mediation services to help communities resolve natural resource challenges. Our collaborative decision-making experts bring decades of experience to guide stakeholders through processes to build inclusive, lasting solutions.
Learn more about our collaborative solutions work in our brochure, or review our recent and ongoing projects.
Wyoming Community Needs Around Changing Economic, Energy, and Environmental Conditions
Lead facilitator: John Burrows
The Ruckelshaus Institute is conducting a stakeholder assessment to better understand Wyoming community-based approaches for planning and adaptation amid a changing climate and energy economy. View the project website.
Wyoming Renewable Energy Siting Collaborative
Lead facilitator: Steve Smutko
The Ruckelshaus Institute convened a collaborative process to generate policy recommendations for renewable energy siting and permitting in Wyoming. The group met nine times between December 2020 and July 2021. In fall 2021, the group released ten recommendations directed at state leadership. View the project website.
Pole Mountain Gateways
Lead facilitator: Nicole Gautier
The Ruckelshaus Institute is working with the Laramie Ranger District of the USDA Forest Service to facilitate a public planning process for non-motorized recreation on the Pole Mountain unit of the Medicine Bow Mountain National Forest. Due to COVID-19 all previously-scheduled meetings have been postponed. View the project website.
Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Collaborative
Lead facilitator: Jessica Western
The Ruckelshaus Institute, in partnership with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, and the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, convened a public engagement process to explore management concerns, issues, and opportunities for the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Herd in central Wyoming. View the project website.
Teton Range Bighorn Sheep and Recreation Collaborative
Lead facilitator: Jessica Western
The Ruckelshaus Institute is facilitating a collaborative learning process spearheaded by the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep and Recreation Working Group to explore ways to balance the winter habitat needs of Teton Range bighorn sheep and backcountry winter recreation in the Tetons. View the project website.
Dubois DRIVE Outdoor Recreation Collaborative
Lead facilitator: Deb Kleinman
Through a grant from the UW Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Ruckelshaus
Institute is partnering with the Dubois Regional Initiative for a Vital Economy, or
Dubois DRIVE, to organize and facilitate an Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development
Collaborative in Dubois, WY.
Wind River Outdoor Recreation Collaborative
Lead facilitator: Deb Kleinman
The Wind River Outdoor Recreation Collaborative (or WRORC) is a partnership between the Ruckelshaus Institute, Wyoming State Parks, Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, and local partners. The goal of the WRORC is to develop and promote outdoor recreation opportunities in and around Fremont County, and provide a plan to enhance Fremont County’s outdoor recreation assets and opportunities and quality of life for residents and visitors.
Lander Community Trails Charrette
In 2019, the Ruckelshaus Institute Lander stakeholders convene a public trails charrette—an intensive planning session where people collaborate on a shared vision—and solicited comments online. A final report summarizes current conditions, explains the process, and summarizes system-wide needs related to four categories: Planning, Data & Info, Education & Use Management, and Other.
Read the report: Lander Trail Charrette Summary and Recommendations
Chronic Wasting Disease Collaborative Process
In late 2018, the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming entered an agreement with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to facilitate a collaborative process to explore management options and seek consensus regarding strategies to reduce the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Wyoming’s ungulate populations. The process produced 39 consensus recommendations, which the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission incorporated into its revised Final Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan and approved on July 16, 2020.
Wyoming Public Lands Initiative
The Ruckelshaus Institute completed its involvement with the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative in September 2018. Institute faculty and staff were assisting three WPLI advisory committees in Carbon, Sublette, and Teton Counties through their deliberations. The Carbon County WPLI Advisory Committee reached a consensus recommendation for three of the four Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) within their purview. The Carbon County Board of Commissioners voted to accept the recommendations of the advisory committee.
The Sublette County WPLI Advisory Committee could not reach agreement on final designation of the three Wilderness Study Areas in that county. In May 2018, they forwarded three separate recommendations for the Sublette County Board of Commissioners to consider. The Commission chose not to adopt any of the three.
The Teton County WPLI Advisory Committee was also unable to find a comprehensive solution that satisfied the interests of the 19 interest groups represented on that committee. In July 2018, the Advisory Committee forwarded three separate recommendations to the Teton Board of Commissioners each representing the desires of different stakeholder groups. The Commissioners voted to accept the one management prescription that was acceptable to all parties, which was to exempt energy development from all federally managed lands in the county.
Carbon County and Teton County forwarded their recommendations to the Wyoming County Commissioners Association for inclusion in a public lands bill to eventually be considered by Congress.
More info: Wyoming Public Lands Initiative website
Greys River Forest Collaborative
The purpose of the Grey’s River Forest Collaborative was to provide the federal, state and private land managers with recommendations to assess and address forest health, travel management and hydrology issues on the Grey’s River and neighboring districts.
Sublette Forest Collaborative
The purpose of the Grey’s River Forest Collaborative was to provide the federal, state and private land managers with recommendations to assess and address the forest health issues on forests throughout Sublette County
Governor's Outdoor Recreation Task Force
In 2016, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead created the Outdoor Recreation Task Force to assess the state's outdoor recreation sector, its needs for the future, relationships with land access, and possible creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation. The Ruckelshaus Institute's Jessica Western facilitated the 26-member group, guiding discussions, organizing information and presentations, and providing decision-making assistance. Together, the group developed 11 recommendations for the Governor's consideration.
Final report: Wyoming Governor's Task Force on Outdoor Recreation
Pole Mountain Trails Charrette
In the summer of 2016, the Ruckelshaus Institute helped Wyoming Pathways and local trail advocates gather public input on non-motorized trails in the Pole Mountain area of the Medicine Bow National Forest. The groups held a public charrette, an intensive planning session where people collaborate on a shared vision, and solicited comments via social media, email, an interactive online map, and other formats.
More info: Wyoming Pathways Past Projects
Thunder Basin Situation Assessment and Collaborative Learning Workshops
In early 2015, the U.S. Forest Service approached the Ruckelshaus Institute to ask for assistance exploring stakeholder perspectives regarding prairie dog issues on the Thunder Basin National Grassland. The situation assessment revealed that stakeholders desired a collaborative process to address management questions in the grassland (view the 2015 situation assessment).
In 2016 and 2017, the Ruckelshaus Institute convened two series of Thunder Basin Collaborative Learning Workshops on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service to engage stakeholders, to ensure that all parties were working from the same information, and to lay groundwork for future informed decision making about grasslands management.
The results of these workshops informed the simultaneously convened Cooperative Working Group, which consisted of government entities with authority relating to prairie dog management.
Laramie County Control Area Steering Committee
In October 2014, the Laramie County Commissioners created the Laramie County Control Area Steering Committee, and hired the Ruckelshaus Institute to facilitate the group’s meetings. In March 2016 the Steering Committee produced a Control Area Groundwater Management Plan, which contains recommendations on well spacing and static water level reporting, and the basic components of a financial incentives program for reducing groundwater consumption.
Final report: Control Area Groundwater Management Plan
Governor’s Task Force on Forests
Governor Matt Mead created a Task Force on Forests in 2013 to study the benefits forests provide and to analyze and consider new response strategies and recommendations for both active and passive management. With leadership from the Ruckelshaus Institute’s Collaborative Solutions Program, the Task Force on Forests reached consensus on 12 major recommendations comprising 53 sub-recommendations for the Governor’s consideration.
Final Report: Governor’s Task Force on Forests
Pole Mountain Road System
In 2015, the Medicine Bow National Forest began preparing to update the road system on Pole Mountain, a unit of the forest between Laramie and Cheyenne. They asked the Ruckelshaus Institute to help solicit public input to inform their proposed updates. We did this by organizing four public meetings, soliciting comments via email and social media outreach, creating an interactive website where members of the public could leave comments, and producing five short videos of Forest Service staff explaining the road system. We presented the over 300 comments to the Forest Service in the form of a final report and GIS layers.
View the website and videos: Pole Mountain Roads: Share Your Input
(Photo: Jim Peaco)
Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee Public Conversations
In response to a request from the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC), the Ruckelshaus Institute designed and facilitated a series of public listening sessions in Jackson, Wyoming; Bozeman, Montana; and Cody, Wyoming, in 2014-15. The goals were to improve existing relationships and create new relationships between the GYCC and stakeholders, to enhance the management effectiveness of the GYCC on ecosystem-scale issues, and to focus national attention on the issues, solutions, importance, and function of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Wyoming Collaboration Conference
The Ruckelshaus Institute hosted a workshop and conference on place-based collaboration to connect communities with natural resources and the environment in Casper, Wyoming, in September 2014. Keynote speakers and concurrent sessions emphasized using collaboration to address natural resource challenges related to forests, wildlife, and oil-and-gas development.
More info: 2014 Wyoming Collaboration Conference
Iterative NEPA and Collaboration
In 2008 the U.S. Forest Service updated its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures to permit a more iterative approach that facilitates collaborative public engagement. Iterative NEPA, or iNEPA, allows practitioners to incrementally improve proposed actions and alternatives to meet stakeholder interests. In 2014, this workshop brought together experienced NEPA practitioners to discuss integrating iNEPA into agency practice. The document outlines iNEPA, its legal foundations, collaborative approaches to the process, and opportunities and challenges related to iNEPA.
Workshop proceedings: Iterative NEPA and Collaboration
(Photo: U.S. Forest Service)
Teton Canyon Hazardous Fuels Reduction and Wildlife Habitat Improvement
Teton Canyon in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest is treasured for its scenic values, recreation amenities, and abundant wildlife, but 100 years of fire exclusion has resulted in dense stands of timber, high loads of dead fuel on the forest floor, increased tree mortality, and unproductive wildlife habitat. The Teton Basin Ranger District proposed vegetation treatments and prescribed fire to reduce fuel loadings and create a more natural vegetative mosaic. The proposal generated significant public interest. In 2014 the Ruckelshaus Institute was asked to help convene public meetings to hear forest users’ concerns, gather information about what people value in the canyon, and learn what they might want to see the Forest Service do to improve conditions in the canyon.
Safe Wildlife Crossings Collaborative
Concerns about rampant wildlife mortality on roads in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem brought diverse stakeholders together. By 2013 much had been achieved, such as new signs and new wildlife crossing structures near Daniel Junction. To keep these efforts moving forward, the Ruckelshaus Institute was invited to facilitate strategy meetings, which evolved into the Safe Wildlife Crossings Collaborative, a citizen-led effort now incorporated into three non-profits and two local government entities. The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, the Teton County Board of Commissioners, and the Teton Conservation District all assumed strategic plan objectives developed at these meetings.
Read more: January 2016 Update from SWCC Cofounders
Oregon Inlet Stakeholder Assessment
In 2013 Dare County, North Carolina, sought to explore the feasibility of using a collaborative, science-based, stakeholder driven process to determine a solution to maintaining a safe navigable route through Oregon Inlet while also protecting the natural landscape of the Outer Banks. The county requested assistance from the Ruckelshaus Institute to conduct a stakeholder assessment. The purpose of the assessment was to evaluate whether this issue is amenable to collaborative problem solving.
Read the final report: Oregon Inlet Stakeholder Assessment
Collaboration in Natural Resources: A Wyoming Forum
In 2013, this forum brought together professionals interested in participating in or leading natural resource collaborative efforts in Wyoming to discuss lessons learned from past and present collaborative efforts, identify barriers and opportunities, and explore the needs to facilitate future efforts.
Upper Green River Basin Citizens Advisory Air Quality Task Force
In 2012 the Ruckelshaus Institute facilitated meetings of the Upper Green River Basin Citizens Advisory Air Quality Task Force, which submitted a set of consensus recommendations to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to address elevated ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin.
Forest Management in the Face of the Bark Beetle Epidemic
In 2010, the Ruckelshaus Institute convened forest managers, scientists, and researchers from across the Intermountain West for a hands-on, two-day policy workshop on bark beetle infested forests to develop new ideas for post-epidemic forest conditions. The report generated from the workshop documents the recommendations and discussions to guide future management efforts.
Workshop proceedings: Bark Beetles in the Intermountain West
Coalbed Methane Working Group
The Coalbed Methane Produced Water Working Group was convened in December 2009 by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The group’s mandate was to assist in the development of a CBM permitting strategy in a way that recognizes the serious and substantial interests of landowners, industry, and the state of Wyoming so that statutory water quality standards could be met. The Ruckelshaus Institute designed, organized, and facilitated the Working Group deliberation process.
Final report: Coalbed Methane Working Group Final Report
Permitting Energy Produced Waters
In 2005 the Ruckelshaus Institute assisted the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in a stakeholder-driven process for developing a new permitting strategy for coalbed methane (CBM) produced water discharges in the Powder River Basin. The CBM Produced Water Working Group was composed of landowners, industry representatives, members of the conservation community, and agency personnel. Through a decision-aiding process, the group was able to successfully develop a suite of recommendations to the DEQ for its revised CBM product water discharge permitting policy.
(Photo: U.S. Forest Service/Joe Riis)
Winter Recreation in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests
The Ruckelshaus Institute convened stakeholders to address winter recreation in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. A working group with 29 forest users generated management recommendations to increase recreational opportunities for winter users. A final report and recommendations led to an education initiative with new signage and maps, a collaborative grooming plan, new parking lot rules, as well as a Forest Service host program and volunteers for monitoring and recording winter use.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
In 1999, the Ruckelshaus Institute, with the Center for the Rocky Mountain West, co-hosted a national workshop commissioned by the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on reclaiming NEPA'S potential. Participants included experts from government, industry, environmental organizations, and academia. The workshop led to recommendations to CEQ for improving NEPA implementation through application of collaborative processes.
Final workshop report: Reclaiming NEPA'S Potential