Red Lodge Clearinghouse
Advancing citizen engagement in natural resources policy.
The newly redesigned Red Lodge Clearinghouse (RLCH) website makes participation in natural resources decision-making easier than ever before.
The RLCH website — originally founded in 2001 by renowned fashion designer and philanthropist, the late Liz Claiborne and her husband, Art Ortenberg — has served the needs of individuals and organizations engaged in collaborative natural resources management for nearly a decade. The Natural Resources Law Center (now the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment) took over the project in 2007 and, with continued funding from the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation, recently resolved to broaden the mission of the project to support a wider variety of problem-solving methods and to break down the barriers impeding citizen engagement.
All government agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed rules and regulations and they are required to address those comments and consider them in the decision-making process. The public comment process is a backbone of our democracy, and one that is too often neglected. One look at the Federal Register reveals why; locating and deciphering opportunities for participation is a daunting task even for trained legal professionals.
By tracking critical western resource issues through public hearing and comment processes, linking to relevant news and opinions, providing thorough but concise primers on applicable laws, and offering users a simple form by which to submit comments electronically to respective decision-making bodies, RLCH is a one-stop shop for interested citizens to learn, discuss, and participate in environmental policy decisions effecting western communities.
The RLCH website is still home to one of the most extensive collections of collaboration resources on the web, which includes stories chronicling collaborative initiatives and the lessons learned, a collaboration handbook, funding information, and much more. However, the site is not just for collaborators anymore — it is full of additional tools that are useful for anyone who wants to learn more about how to have an impact on natural resources policy decisions.
The Red Lodge Clearinghouse arose from recommendations made at the Workshop on Collaborative Resource Management in the Interior West held at Red Lodge, Montana in October 2001.
The Red Lodge Workshop was convened by the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation to provide an interactive forum for collaborators — practitioners, policy-makers, elected officials, agency leaders and field staff, donors and conservationists — to better understand the realities of collaborative work in resource management where it happens, on the ground.
The workshop was held with the twin objectives of developing clear and practical recommendations to elected representatives who legislate resource policy and to the agencies that implement that policy, and of clarifying for practitioners the necessary requirements for effective collaborative work. It was a further objective to encourage a new awareness and spirit of participation that will facilitate seeking solutions to competing resource claims that have created a no-win state of gridlock in the Interior West. The workshop participants approved a straightforward set of policy recommendations intended to position collaboration as the "preferred alternative" for resolving resource management issues involving multiple public and/or private sector stakeholders. The recommendations target three areas:
- Increasing regulatory flexibility in implementation of environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forests Management Act, with an emphasis on "end results" rather than procedural requirements
- Exploring experimental programs and pilot projects as alternative approaches for meeting the requirements of existing environmental laws.
- Building place-specific capacity for collaborative resource management.
The participants identified training and capacity building as a major need that could significantly improve the effectiveness of many collaborative resource management efforts. Examples were cited where collaboration arose only to founder or to face unnecessary difficulties, delays, and challenges because the process was poorly designed, the right people were not included, the relevant information was not accessible, or the necessary resources were not available.
Since then, through case studies, funding information, handbooks, news stories, and summaries of laws, the Red Lodge Clearinghouse has supported, connected and informed the partners of collaborative initiatives and others addressing natural resource challenges in their community.
The Red Lodge Clearinghouse is managed by the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado School of Law.