The most important part of the evaluation process for the Corps is basing their decision on NED, the national economic development. The federal objective that the Corps engages on when dealing in water resource planning is to primarily decide upon a plan that contributes the greatest amount of benefits to national economic development, "...consistent with protecting the Nation's environment, pursuant to national environmental statutes, applicable executive orders, and other federal planning requirements." The Corps and the Federal government define contributions to NED as increases in the net value of the national output of goods and services, expressed in monetary units. The contributions to END include increases in those goods and services that both may be marketed and those that may not be marketed, i.e. natural resources.
Theories of agency behavior are tested via the empirical application of hydropower project relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In the relicensing of each project, fish and wildlife afencies make formal recommendations to FERC on fish and wildlife protection at the project. FERC then enters a two-stage deliberation process during which it accepts; amends then accepts; or rejects each recommendation. We apply a count data model to explain the number of recommendations made per project and a bivariate probit model to explain FERC's disposition of the recommendations. The analysis covers 933 fish and wildlife recommendations made for 72 projects relicensed during 1980-96. Independent variables for the benefits and costs of the recommendations cannot be constructed because of FERC's deficient generation of economic information.
A background section thus details the more serious limitations of FERC's application of economic analysis. In explaining outcomes, a tension exists between the hierarchical control of Congress or the executive branch (the Progressive Reform model of agency behavior) and an agency's bureaucratic resistance to change (an evolutionary model of agency behavior). Key findings indicate that a new law (the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986) substantially altered FERC's fish and wildlife decisions, while a new administration (the Clinton administration, beginning 1993) exerted a mixed effect. Both events influenced the fish and wildlife agencies, as the number of recommendations made, per project, increased significantly at these junctures.
Spurred by a growing recognition that many difficult environmental problems are really ecosystem problems, scientists, resource management professionals, and others were beginning to work ecological principles into public land management policy and practice. In addition to this new way of scientific thinking, a great deal of administrative attention was paid to finding new ways of resolving natural resource conflicts. Economists and administrators searched for "win-win" strategies of resource management. There were anecdotal reports of successes, but no wide ranging discussion of cooperative ecosystem management (CEM). An objective survey of CEM was commissioned by the Wilderness Society. The study was conducted in order to furnish government agencies (USDA, USFS, NPS, BLM) with information as well as to create a resource by which individuals, organizations, agencies, or corporations facing local environmental challenges could learn from the collective and individual experience of CEM projects nationwide.
While CEM appears quite promising, it is in many respects a new endeavor involving a lot of hard work. Most of the CEM projects surveyed received at least some public investment. Thus, the continued success of CEM revolves around the continued funding for programs. CEM represents a process by which more effective ecosystem protection can occur. However, we must ensure that the progress CEM has already made and the lessons CEM holds are not lost.