Contributions to Policy and Practice

Staff and Senior Fellows from the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy frequently contribute to policy discussions, conferences, workshops, trainings, and forums. Several recent contributions are summarized below.


May 2017, Future of Federal Public Land and Resources

In light of the political and public interest in federal public land and resources, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the last Public Land Law Review Commission (1970), the Center (under the leadership of Matthew McKinney) is working with the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment and the Consensus Building Institute to identify the most salient changes that have occurred over the past 50-years; examine what is/is not working with respect law, policy, and governance; and explore options on how to improve federal land and resources management. We started by inviting several recognized experts on federal public land law, policy, and governance to an exploratory workshop in April 2015, and are now in the process of completing interviews with another 35-40 people to gather additional insights and advice. The next steps for this project should emerge during fall 2017.

January 2017, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation

Matthew McKinney was invited to participate at Advanced Public Land Law – The Continuing Challenge of Managing for Multiple Use. He moderated a panel on the evolution and role of collaborative problem solving in federal public land management. Over 250 lawyers from the American West participated in the multi-day conference.


November 2016 to present, Community-based Collaboration in the American West

Center staff are providing strategic advice and leadership on several initiatives to promote and support community-based collaboration in the American West. At the request of Future West, Shawn Johnson is contributing to a series of capacity building workshops for community-based practitioners. The next workshop will be focused on monitoring and evaluation and is scheduled for early November 2017. At the request of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University, Matthew McKinney is serving on a Leadership Team to diagnose the needs and interests of collaborative practitioners, and to then design appropriate programs and resources to satisfy those needs and interests. Johnson and McKinney also led a team to prepare a memorandum to the Intermountain West Funders’ Network about the need to invest in building the capacity of collaborative leaders and community-based collaborative initiatives in the Rocky Mountain West. This portfolio of projects is ongoing.

October 2016, Future of Our Salmon

Matthew McKinney was invited by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission to discuss his ongoing work with all of the tribes and First Nations in the basin on alternative arrangements to govern the use of land, water, and other natural resources in the transboundary river basin. Over 250 people participated in this multi-day conference.

August 2016, High Meadows Fund

Matthew McKinney served as a strategic advisor to help this philanthropic organization design a watershed governance program for watersheds in Vermont and other states in the Northeast. McKinney emphasized the need for grassroots, homegrown initiatives that are catalyzed and coordinated by facilitative leaders and appropriately linked to established local, state, and federal government agencies.

July 2016, Food for the Hungry

Matthew McKinney was invited to join an international team to conduct a participatory needs assessment related to flood mitigation in communities along the Jamuna/Bramaputra River in Bangladesh. The team spent almost two weeks interviewing local, regional, and national leaders in both small and large groups, working with translators most of the time to communicate effectively with local people in the most vulnerable communities. The team synthesized and analyzed findings while in Bangladesh, and is now preparing a proposal for funding to a limited number of interested donors.

June 2016, Association for Conflict Resolution

Matthew McKinney participated on the program committee to help design the annual conference of the Environment and Public Policy Section. Over 100 people participated in the conference on June 7-8, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Unlike most conferences, the participants used “open space technology” to develop agenda topics and leaders for different break-out sessions. Open space sessions ranged from mentoring and innovative approaches to inspire and equip the next generation of facilitators and mediators, to the use of collaborative technology, dealing with scientific and technical uncertainty, and addressing issues related to public and private land conservation.

June 2016, 5th Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication

Matthew McKinney delivered the keynote address at this annual gathering, which focused on the challenges of public participation in environmental planning and decision-making. Over 75 people participated in the 3-day event. The title of the keynote address is Rethinking Public Participation: The Case of Federal Public Lands.

May 2016, Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)

Matthew McKinney participated in a workshop on Innovations in Public Land Management: Economics, Law, and Policy. Among other topics, the 25 workshop participants explored innovations in public participation and collaborative governance.

April 2016, Western Governors’ Association

Matthew McKinney moderated a webinar on “Multi-species Management and Desert Landscapes.” Over 75 people participated in the webinar, which is part of the Chairman’s initiative on Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act.


November 2015, Accord Network

Matthew McKinney participated in the annual forum of Accord Network, a national association of Christian-oriented relief and development organizations. In addition to participating in plenary sessions and the “water, sanitation, and hygiene” workshops, he co-led a “critical conversation” on sustainable development and environmental stewardship. Over 150 people from all over world participated in the forum.

October 2015, International Joint Commission

Matthew McKinney facilitated a workshop for the International Joint Commission to advance its international watersheds initiative. More than 60 leaders representing about 20 transboundary watersheds along the 49th parallel participated in the workshop to build collaborative capacity, develop strategic action plans around key issues, and explore opportunities to work together.

October 2015, Public Land Law Conference

Matthew McKinney moderated a panel on water resources at Transcending Boundaries: Achieving Success in Cooperative Management of Natural Resources, the biennial conference of the Public Land and Resources Law Review at the University of Montana’s School of Law.

October 2015, High Divide Capacity Building Initiative

At the request of Future West, Shawn Johnson and Matthew McKinney led a workshop on collaborative leadership and managing effective meetings at the annual meeting of community-based partnerships in the High Divide region. Nearly 100 leaders from about 40 different organizations participated in the workshop.

September 2015, Columbia River Basin Workshop

Matthew McKinney facilitated a 3-day workshop with tribes and First Nations in the transboundary Columbia River Basin. The workshop built on the recently released report A Sacred Responsibility (2015) and charted a path to improve the role of tribes and First Nations in the basin in governing the use of land, water, and natural resources.

September 2015, National Research Council Report on Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Matthew McKinney reviewed a draft report by a committee of experts on the U.S. Department of Interior’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. The final report will be available in 2016.

September 2015, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Assembly

Wylie Carr and Matthew McKinney participated in the 83rd assembly in Waterton National Park. Mr. Carr talked about an ongoing project to convene transboundary conservation practitioners from all over the world in Glacier National Park in fall 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the world’s first international peace park and an inspiration to the field of transboundary conservation. Dr. McKinney talked about Transboundary Conservation, a book he co-authored and co-edited and published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2015.

August 2015, Ecological Society of America

Matthew McKinney was invited by the editors of Ecology, the premier journal of the Ecological Society of America, to review Stitching the West Back Together, a new book on collaborative conservation by Susan Charnley, Thomas E. Sheridan, and Gary P. Nabhan. The review appears in the November 2015 issue of Ecology.

June 2015

At the request of the University of Michigan Water Center and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative, Dr. McKinney served as an external reviewer for the 2015 grant funding cycle. Sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the grants are designed to support the co-development and application of relevant and usable knowledge to address critical coastal management issues. The program places an emphasis on multi-sector, multi-disciplinary teams to improve the long-term stewardship of the nation’s valuable estuaries.

May 2015

In partnership with the Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment at The University of Utah, the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy convened a two-day workshop to explore the merits of catalyzing a comprehensive review of federal public land and resources law, policy, and governance. The participants included a who’s who in public land law and policy, including Charles Wilkinson, John Leshy, Lynn Scarlett, Anne Castle, Rebecca Watson, Billy Barquin, and several other recognized individuals. For more information on this initiative, please contact Matthew McKinney.

April 2015

At the request of the University of Montana’s Indian Law Clinic, Dr. McKinney delivered a keynote address at a continuing legal education workshop on “Governing Transboundary Waters: The Role of Tribes & First Nations in the Columbia River Basin.” The presentation drew on Dr. McKinney’s ongoing work with all of the tribes and First Nations in the Columbia River Basin to explore alternative governance arrangements to promote and support whole basin management.


November 2014

At the request of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Matthew McKinney participated in the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia. He delivered two talks and facilitated a workshop on alternative governance arrangements for transboundary conservation. He also participated in a special session to launch a forthcoming book on transboundary conservation, which will be published by IUCN in 2015. Over 5,000 people from all over the world participated in the World Parks Congress.

November 2014

Matthew McKinney participated in the annual forum of the Accord Network, a catalyst for learning, collaboration, and building Christian responses to global poverty, development, and relief. Dr. McKinney followed the “water, sanitation, and hygiene” sector, and was asked to co-lead a working group over the next year on “ecological reconciliation,” the theory and practice of providing essential water and sanitation services while promoting peace and environmental stewardship in conflict regions. Over 250 people from all over North America participated in the forum.

October 2014

On behalf of the Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, Matthew McKinney participated in the 2014 conference on the Columbia River Basin — co-convened by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Columbia Basin Trust. Dr. McKinney moderated a panel and facilitated a workshop on alternative governance arrangements for the future of the basin. He also shared some of the preliminary results of an applied research project he is working on with other members of the Universities Consortium and all of the tribes and First Nations in the basin on the future role of indigenous people in governing the use of water and related resources in the basin. Over 350 people participated in the 3-day conference.

June 2014

Matthew McKinney co-facilitated a two week workshop on international water law and conflict resolution at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Nearly 75 mid-career professional from every corner of the world participated in the annual workshop. Among other things, Dr. McKinney provided a keynote address on the history of ideas and strategies to prevent and resolve water conflicts in the American West.

May 26-28, 2014 -- Mountain Research and Education Institute Workshop

Emily Schembra and Shawn Johnson helped design and facilitate a workshop focused on ways to coordinate and integrate a social-ecological systems approach to management and decision making in mountain ecosystems.

April 11, 2014 -- Who Gets What on Our Shrinking Planet? Reimagining Collaborative Decision-making

Matthew McKinney and Emily Schembra participated in the 20th anniversary symposium of the Consensus Building Institute. Over 150 participants from around the world explored the future of collaborative problem solving as applied to water, food, and energy.

February 20, 2014 -- Forum on Public Policy and Leadership

Emily Schembra discussed Facilitative Leadership as part of a panel at the 2014 Carroll College Forum on Public Policy and Leadership.

February 18, 2014 -- Charting the Course for Large Landscape Conservation in the Coming Decade

Matthew McKinney and Shawn Johnson joined conservation leaders from federal agencies and the non-profit sector in a workshop in Washington, DC, focused on five themes that are shaping the future of large landscape conservation.


December 3-5, 2013 -- National Park Service Scaling Up Workshop

Shawn Johnson participated in a workshop at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown WV, focused the National Park Service's "Scaling Up" efforts.

October 15-18, 2013 -- IUCN Workshop on Transboundary Conservation

Matthew McKinney participated in a workshop in Thayatal National Park, Austria on international best practices for transboundary conservation. The workshop was convened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and included participants from 17 countries and every continent. The workshop launched an effort to prepare a book on the topic that will be released at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Australia. Dr. McKinney will serve as one of the editors of the book and contribute articles on governance and leadership.

October 9, 2013 -- Resources Article on the Endangered Species Act

Matthew McKinney co-authored an article in Resources, the premier publication of Resources for the Future on, "The Endangered Species Act at 40."

September 2013 to June 2014 — The Council of State Governments, Science Advisory Board

Matthew McKinney was invited to serve on the CSG Science Advisory Board. The primary task of the board is to revise and update a policy report for legislators on the use of science and technical information in making and implementing public policy. The updated policy report should be available from CSG in summer 2014.

September 11-13, 2013 -- 4th Annual Conference, Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent

Molly Stenovec, Shawn Johnson, and Stephan Edwards helped organize, convene, and facilitate the 4th Annual Conference of the Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, MT.

July 15-18, 2013 — U.S. Institute on Global Environmental Issues

Matthew McKinney and Shawn Johnson led of series of lectures, exercises, and a field trip on "collaborative conservation" with 20 undergraduate students from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

July 15, 2013 -- National Native News

Sarah Bates was interviewed on the legal and policy implications of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes' acquisition of Kerr Dam on the Flathead River in Montana.  Listen to the interview: Tribes in Western U.S. Use Water to Assert Sovereignty.

June 27, 2013 — Five Valleys Land Trust

Matthew McKinney participated in a strategic planning session with the Board of Directors of Five Valleys Land Trust. Among other topics, he emphasized the need to better link the work of land and water trusts, and to build partnerships to advance culture, community, and conservation at the scale of large landscapes.

June 4, 2013 -- Land Trust Alliance

Sarah Bates facilitated a forum at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on opportunities for western land trusts to address water in their private land conservation initiatives. This gathering served as a review body for a draft sourcebook on land trusts and water, which includes detailed resources on western states' laws and policies for instream flow protection as well as sample legal document language for addressing water in conservation easements.

 April 18, 2013 -- University of Montana Public Land Law Conference

Sarah Bates provided summary remarks, wrapping up conference on the legal and policy implications of energy development on western public lands. As visiting faculty at the University of Montana School of Law in 2012-13, Sarah served as the advisor for the student conference editors and provided valuable connections to speakers and sponsors representing diverse perspectives.


November 29-30, 2012 -- Healthy Headwaters Leadership Convening

Sarah Bates was an invited participant in strategy session convened in Portland, OR by Carpe Diem West, an interdisciplinary network of professionals working to develop solutions to climate change impacts on western water resources. A key focus of this group is the relationship of land management (particularly national forests) to water quality and quantity, an area of emphasis for Sarah's work at the Center as well.

September 30, 2012 -- Land Trust Alliance

Sarah Bates facilitated a forum at the National Conservation Conference-Rally on opportunities for western land trusts to address water in their private land conservation initiatives.  This meeting launched a project that will produce a sourcebook on land trusts and water.  Participants represented a diverse cross-section of western land trusts, water trusts, landowners, and other conservation interests.