Former Ag Official To Speak About Bridging Divides Over Environmental Issues

Apr 3, 2019

Former Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture at the announcement in Colorado that the greater sage grouse would not be listed as endangered.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons/US Dept. of Interior

The U.S. has long solved environmental issues through conflict and regulation, but a former federal agriculture official said it's time for a paradigm shift that solves them through consensus. Former U.S. Agriculture Department Under Secretary Robert Bonnie will address that issue at the University of Wyoming on Thursday.

Bonnie said, one of the best examples of the strength of locally-driven collaborative efforts occurred here in Wyoming.

"The sage grouse is an example of the type of approach that we can embrace far more broadly," Bonnie said. "It can apply to other species under the Endangered Species Act, when we think about how to protect wetlands and streams and other things. I think it's a model we can draw on."

Bonnie said by bringing ranchers, wildlife advocates, energy executives and governments to the same table, Wyoming demonstrated how to reach consensus on hard topics; efforts that he points out have proved long lasting. He said the same approach could be taken in areas such as forest fire prevention, grizzly management and water quality protection.

"Part of the argument for a more collaborative, incentive-based approach to environmental policy is that we might actually be able to bridge the Republican/Democratic divide and the urban and rural divide as well."

But Bonnie said that means state and federal governments need to start investing in programs to support community-based solutions.

His talk is called "Beyond Confrontation and Regulation: Towards a New Conservation Paradigm" and takes place Thursday night at the University of Wyoming's College of Business Auditorium at 7 p.m.