Getting Messy: Managing Northwest Environmental Conflicts and Collaboration

Through much of the 20th century, natural resource and environmental policy decision-making was performed often by centralized bodies and government experts. Dams were constructed without consultation with sovereign Tribal Nations and interstate highways were built through neighborhoods with limited community input. Today, Washington state is a national leader in collaborative environmental governance with university programs, independent government agencies, NGOs, and contractors supporting this work.   

I will discuss the role of professional independent facilitators, mediators, and community engagement practitioners in helping governments, Tribes, scientists, stakeholders, and diverse publics work through conflict and find implementable solutions to shared natural resource challenges. I will introduce a theoretical approach to developing collaborative solutions, and provide examples of how collaboration, which is messy in practice, has played out during specific projects that my team from Triangle Associates has supported.  

About the Speaker

Thomas standing in front of informational posters
Thomas Christian
Facilitator for Natural Resource & Public Lands Decision Making, Triangle Associates

Thomas Christian is based in Seattle and brings a decade of natural resource and public lands experience. Since joining Triangle Associates in 2017, Thomas has facilitated collaborative natural resource planning and decision-making processes throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. His recent multi-party facilitation projects have included the Skagit River hydroelectric relicensing, a prescribed fire strategic plan, and engagement between the State and Tribes regarding sustainable outdoor recreation management.   

Thomas is trained in environmental collaboration and conflict resolution by the Udall Foundation. He holds an MA in Environmental Studies from Western Washington University and a BA in History from Augustana College. Prior to joining Triangle, Thomas worked for the U.S. Forest Service on the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest and the National Park Service at Olympic National Park.

Environmental Speaker Series

The Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by the College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30 pm in Academic Instructional Center West room 204 - AW-204. Talks will also be streamed via zoom. Register with the Alumni Association for the zoom link. Paid parking is available in lot C.

Learn more about the Environmental Speaker Series
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