Around the West and even around the world, communities and governments have been experimenting with more collaborative, decentralized yet coordinated, science-based environmental decision-making and stewardship with impressive results.
In December 1998 at a Western Governors’ Association meeting, Governors Mike Leavitt, R-Utah, and John Kitzhaber, D-Oregon, were describing their own experiences and successes with collaborative yet comprehensive efforts. Governor Leavitt experience came from many of the projects described earlier as well as from his experience as Chairman of an effort to address regional air quality and haze impacts to the Grand Canyon. Governor Kitzhaber was in his third year of working with landowners, technical experts and participants throughout Oregon to restore watershed health and the salmon that are integral to the region’s heritage and future.
Both saw that the solutions they were nurturing could do more to meet society’s goals for the health of the environment than existing laws could compel. Both sensed that the commitments being made would be sustained through time and that real progress in improving environmental health could be made. Both saw the power and value of everyone working together on a shared problem – sharing perspectives, gaining a greater understanding of the science and legal parameters and collectively designing and committing to a common plan for action. Both plans relied on a mix of regulations, incentives and voluntary actions.
In listening to each other, it was clear that the governors shared a common philosophy – a concept that was being used at many different levels of government to address an array of complex environmental problems and that could be used more widely. The governors decided to extract the common principles from these experiences and “give voice” to this philosophy – an effective way of tackling tough 21st century problems. They named it “Enlibra” to distinguish it from other philosophies or doctrines.
During the 1990s, the Western Governors had experimented with a variety of ways to improve management of the environment of the West through collaborative processes. Valuable accomplishments have been achieved while lessons have been learned from development of the Park City Principles for Water Management, the High Plains Partnership, the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, the Texas Regional Water Supply Planning Process, Trails and Recreational Access for Alaska and the Wyoming Open Lands Initiative. These efforts have built on the collaborative process which has shown repeated promise, and have demonstrated that the environmental strategies that work best have strong commitment from state and local government, vested local support, and federal collaboration.
These principles and their descriptions later were “ground-truthed” with more than 400 participants from across the nation at an Environmental Summit of the West in December 1998. Ultimately, a refined description of Enlibra was adopted as policy by the western Governors’ Association (WGA) and subsequently by the National Governors Association and a host of other government, corporate and nongovernmental organizations and associations.
The Principles which evolved are as follows:
- National Standards, Neighborhood Solutions — Assign Responsibilities at the Right Level
- Collaboration, Not Polarization–Use Collaborative Processes to Break
Down Barriers and Find Solutions
- Solutions Transcend Political Boundaries–Use Appropriate Geographic Boundaries for Environmental Problems
- Recognition of Benefits and Costs–Make Sure All Decisions Affecting
Infrastructure, Development and Environment are Fully Informed
- Reward Results, Not Programs–Move to a Performance Based System
- Science For Facts, Process for Priorities–Separate Subjective Choices from Objective Data Gathering
- Markets Before Mandates–Pursue Economic Incentives Whenever Appropriate
- Change A Heart, Change A Nation–Environmental Understanding is Crucial
In April 2002, the WGA sponsored a second Environmental Summit on the West, where participants presented case studies and discussed how to apply Enlibra in real-life situations. This summit made clear the need to present Enlibra to the public on a nationwide scale.