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The Role of Science in Natural Resource Management: The Case for the Colorado River G. R. MARZOLF, Murray State University Murray, Kentucky INTRODUCTION Our primary purpose here is to present information and then to foster reasoned discussion. The symposium is meant to be a review of extant information about the Grand Canyon reach of the Colorado River and a forum to discuss how better to apply science to the management of the Colorado River ecosystem in the Grand Canyon. The great nineteenth century surveys of the American West, e.g., those of Lewis and Clark, Long, Pike, and Fremont before the Civil War and the King, Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys afterwards, were dedicated to documenting the extent and location of natural resources for the people of the United States. These surveys were, in fact, an early application of scientific observation to document natural resources for purposes of plan- ning for development; Some of the information that John Wesley Powell developed is recorded in his 1878 report Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, a tren- chant bit of writing that presents a compellingly logical approach to the development of water resources for the "reclamation" of lands for agricul- ture (Powell, 1878~. This document underpins a report of the National Academy of Sciences that led to the establishment of the U.S. Geological Survey by consolidating the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys in 1879 (Bartlett, 1962; Stegner, 1954~. The report documented the extent of the western water resource for development, and it presented a logical rationale 28
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE... 29 for federal government involvement. This eventually led to the establish- ment of the Reclamation Service as one of the U.S. Geological Survey's branches in 1902 (Watkins, 1983~. Thus, development of the Southwest was hastened. Powell's parallel ideas about (1) full surveys of irrigable land, (2) land grant size and water rights, (3) rules for making land grants to families, and (4) governmental boundaries (irrigation districts) being congruent with drainage basins are outlined in the early chapters of his report. It is ironic that the rapid pace of subsequent legislation and development outstripped any at- tempt to implement Powell's ideas. Such implementation might have pre- cluded many of the conflicts that we are facing in this, the last decade of Reclamation's first century; at least the history of the West would have been quite different. It was the articulation of these ideas that brought Powell under his greatest pressure from development interests in Congress. His full logic did not prevail because it was too revolutionary. It contra- dicted a prevailing spirit of individual initiative and competition, the coop- erative spirit of the Mormons in Utah notwithstanding (Stegner, 1954~. Powell's surveys, of course, are the ones that identify the beginning of the systematic accumulation of information that we will review in this meeting. This body of knowledge was gathered with careful observation, with quanti- tative measurement methods, and with insightful analysis. These processes were followed by common sense interpretation and synthesis. As such, the analysis was scientific. Powell followed those reports with aggressive and assertive translation of his ideas into federal public policy. Many said that he was acting in his own self-interest, to position himself to have national influence (Stegner, 1954~. In any event, he was an extraordinary man. I suggest that we dedicate what we do and say here to the early scientists and engineers who tackled difficult problems on the Colorado River with enthusiasm. By doing so, I ask that we keep in mind that more reasoned discussion would have served the common welfare in the 1890s. Surely, it should serve well 100 years later. THE STRENGTH OF SCIENCE If a logically compelling rationale for a long-term interaction between natural science and useful management of the river can be developed here, it will be based on candid understanding of the kinds of knowledge that science can and cannot yield. Science, as the general concept is used here, has several aspects. My use will entail a combination of these. First, science is method. It is a way of knowing based on the premise that what our senses tell us is the truth. Observation with a keen eye, common sense, and careful recording are often all that is necessary to per- form solid scientific inquiry. The modern trappings of science, electron
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30 COLORADO RIVER ECOLOGY AND DAM MANAGEMENT microscopes, side-scan sonars, inhered radiometers, computers, etc., all marvelous inventions, are technological extensions of the keen eye that merely en- hance powers of observation and analysis. Technological advances, how- ever, do not replace common sense. Observation and subsequent accumulation of facts lead directly to pat- terns of inductive reasoning, or empiricism. Knowledge emerges as a result of forming general concepts from the assembly of specific facts into coher- ent and consistent patterns. Understanding grows as concepts of how things work can be stated with increasing certainty. Such understanding can be checked by predicting the outcome of events correctly. Prediction, refined in terms of observational design and analytical procedure, is the basis for experimentation in science. There is great danger, however, in concluding that the understanding has been "proven" by correctly predicting the outcome of events once, or twice, or thrice. Some uncertainty always remains; if the outcome were checked again, under different circumstances, events might not proceed the same way, or resulting observations would not be the same. Proof by means of correct predictions is tenuous at best. On the other hand, if predictions are made in the form of cause-and- effect hypotheses and tests are performed by manipulating conditions and observing the subsequent events, always seeking evidence that would show the hypothesis to be untrue, the method becomes more powerful. This is the planned experiment. Of course, there are degrees of elegance and clev- erness in experimental design, and there are various levels of analytical power to be applied to the results. The logic, however, is that if any results under experimental conditions show the hypothesis to be incorrect, the hy- pothesis can be rejected as false. Disproof, falsification, or rejection of incorrect hypotheses is more powerful because it is final. Experimental science develops knowledge most rapidly by rejecting what is not true, thus leaving the truth more and more certain with each experiment (Doyle, 1890; Popper, 1965~. Science also may proceed in the absence of empirical data. Deductive reasoning is theoretical; it depends on the thoughtful application of first principles. This aspect of science may lead to the development of abstract conceptual models, many of which may be represented in mathematical notation. These methods become most powerful when they result in predic- tive hypotheses that are followed by testing. Again, experimental design and analysis become central to learning new knowledge and developing information. In practice, both inductive and deductive (empirical and theo- retical) approaches are used in combination, though not equally well by the same person. The crux of the matter, however, is that tentative ideas are put to the test by confronting them with facts. Second, science is knowledge. It is the subset of all human knowledge
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE... 31 that has accumulated according to the methods briefly outlined above. It represents our understanding of the universe in which we live and the ob- jective understanding of our place in it. A feature of this body of knowl- edge is that it changes. What was thought to be true is routinely falsified. We are constantly reminded that our understanding is imperfect. This un- certainty about truth is a common condition among practitioners of science. Science, among all human endeavors, is therefore relatively quick to find and correct its own errors. The drive to expose and learn the truth is tempered by the sure knowledge that truth is rarely certain, yet we are driven to find it because the excitement of discovering new knowledge is so rewarding. Errors in manuscripts are abhorred by authors, of course. Yet when they occur, they are found by peer reviewers, more often than not, before the articles are published. Errors that escape the review process and appear in the open literature are soon pointed out by "friends" and competi- tors. The risk of being humbled by errors forces conservatism on all but the most confident, audacious, or naive scientists. The value of review as an error screen and as a guard against fraud is a significant value that must attend the publication of scholarly scientific investigation. Third, science is application. Distinctions between basic and applied science may be beyond the scope of what is necessary here, but methods are similar, rules of evidence are the same, and uncertainty remains. The po- lemic conflict between the two is not important. Basic science is characterized as seeing the universe more as a puzzle to be assembled than as a problem to be solved. Progress is less definable; fads and hot topics are common as "corners" and "edge pieces" are estab- lished and as recognizable patterns take form. Applied science is characterized by seeking solutions to particular prob- lems; as such, applied science underpins technology. The full extension of applied science is thought by many to define engineering, where human utility is an important criterion. Much problem-oriented research is per- formed by engineering consulting firms, called in because it is inefficient for agencies to carry research staffs large enough to cover the potentially wide array of research needs. An unfortunate feature of much applied research is that the emergence of problems often catches us unaware, with inadequate background informa- tion and with little time for the full development of scientific inquiry before management decisions must be made. This imposes a crisis atmosphere on many investigations. Under time-limited schedules investigations proceed, under pressure, until the time for decision arrives. Once the decision is made, the value of the results drops because there is no further need for the information by the decision maker. The researcher, meanwhile, must get on to the next contract, or "crisis." The results of such investigations are not often prepared for publication. Nevertheless, new knowledge is discovered
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32 COLORADO RIVER ECOLOGY AND DAM MANAGEMENT routinely in the process, but it is rarely peer reviewed and it is barely accessible to others in agency reports, known as the "gray" literature. Finally, science is public perception. It is a cultural concept with many shades of meaning. Science is what scientists do. Science is what the National Academy of Sciences or the National Science Foundation or the Bureau of Reclamation or the Geological Survey say it is. There is an authoritarian ring to this perception that is distasteful and incorrect. Being correct by rule of authority in science is nonsense. This point is important to any consideration of applying science to man- agement or public policy because the credibility of science risks being com- promised or used inappropriately. Statements risk being misleading. Things are done in the name of science only because of the credibility that the term "science" carries with it. Most scientists are aware of this; most guard against it because credibility is a precious virtue. Some scientists, unfortu- nately, take inappropriate advantage of science's inherent credibility. Per- haps I dwell too much on this, but the subject of water management in the Southwest is potentially contentious. We must be cautious. THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE Despite its several strengths, there are limits to what can be known through the methods of science. Understanding and awareness of these limits, as the applications of science to management are discussed, should be useful. Understanding and predictive success through scientific inquiry lead to the opportunity for using manipulation to control or to alter events in nature through management. This premise has been the very basis for the develop- ment of modern crop and livestock agriculture, of forestry management, and of the management of fisheries and wildlife, i.e., of the development of all renewable natural resources. Many management shortfalls or errors have been made because adequate scientific inquiry was left behind. Often a management practice is implemented to solve a problem with too little, or no, interest in checking to see whether the problem is solved. More damag- ing, the results of scientific analyses are suppressed because they run counter to short-term financial gain of natural resource exploiters. Science is clearly a powerful way to learn about nature or to predict the outcome of events given a known set of circumstances, but science cannot make judgments about what outcomes are good or bad. These are value judgments that require other human systems for knowing. Science may serve in such decisions by (1) objectively documenting changes and rates of change, (2) making predictions about the potential outcomes of change, (3) helping to develop management options, (4) evaluating the feasibility of management goals, (5) making predictions about management utility and success, (6) assessing results, and thus (7) illuminating public choices, but
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE.~. 33 science itself is valueless; i.e., it has no inherent mechanism to evaluate good or bad or to choose between right and wrong. Decisions about the desirability of management objectives are therefore beyond the purview of science. MANAGEMENT CHOICES So, choices of management goals in the Colorado River ecosystem be- come a central issue the "tough nut." Several agencies and their constitu- encies are in conflict. How are these conflicts to be resolved? How per- fectly can they be resolved? What is the range of management choices? How do we know when resolution has been reached, or management suc- cessful? Who gets to choose the management goals? If management goals are incompatible, who decides which goal takes priority? What are the costs? Who pays? These are some of the questions that the Bureau of Reclamation is being asked by other agencies and by the public as the future operation of Glen Canyon Dam is considered. All of them are be- yond the purview of basic science. Science can contribute significant information to people seeking answers, making decisions, and setting management goals. But the people must decide. They must decide how much information is needed before they choose. Our goals for the symposium follow from two questions: Question: What can science provide now? Answer: The body of knowledge waiting to be applied to these particu- lar problems will be reviewed by speakers in this symposium. Question: What can science do on a continuing basis? Answer: The application of science to management, in this case, may be novel. A rationale is offered below, will be discussed as the symposium proceeds, and can serve as a focal point as decisions about management goals are made, planned, and implemented. THE CASE FOR THE COLORADO RIVER There are adequate introductory descriptions of the Colorado River and its history published elsewhere. The three oversimplified points here are made only to underpin a rationale to wed science and management on a continuing basis. Background and more detailed discussion may be found in our report River and Dam Management (National Research Council, 1987~. First point: The construction of Glen Canyon Dam three decades ago im- posed substantial changes on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National
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34 COLORADO RIVER ECOLOGY AND DAM MANAGEMENT Park and elsewhere. The changes did not all happen at once. In fact, they continue to occur, they will continue for the foreseeable future, and they are related to the operation of the dam. The river is in disequilibrium. Our detailed knowledge of pre-dam patterns in natural processes is sketchy and, until this symposium, has been scattered. Nevertheless, the alteration of the river because of the dam is obvious. Second point: The river in Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon changed in response to low flows while Lake Powell was filling (ca. two decades, 1963-1980~. These flows were governed by releases called for in the law of the river and generation of hydropower as possible. Third point: The river went through a period of high flow spills in 1983- 1985, but it has been readjusting to controlled fluctuating flows during the postfilling decade (1981-1990~. The paces of many ecosystem changes vary in all of these periods, but they are thought to be long term relative to annual patterns (e.g., seasonal changes) and multiyear legal and economic patterns (e.g., law of the river and hydropower marketing cycles). THE LONG-TERM INTERACTION BETWEEN SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT Some dispute that the operation of Glen Canyon Dam can (1) serve to control the release of water according to the terms of the Colorado River Compact, (2) generate hydroelectric power effectively, and (3) achieve man- agement goals in the Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon reaches of the river. There will be, I suspect, considerable disagreement about the third of these suggestions. The issue has been raised, however, and so the following is offered as a preliminary approach to finding solutions. ECOSYSTEM SCIENCE Most ecosystem scientists believe that the talents and skills of several people from various disciplines are required to understand complex sys- tems. The ecosystem approach begins with the understanding that the ele- ments of the system and the processes that drive them are interconnected. Furthermore, no element of the system is independent of others. Thus, changing one component or process will change all others. The degrees of change and the rates at which changes happen vary, depending on degrees of con- nectedness and the effects of random events. Phenomena in the Colorado River ecosystem offer examples. Sediment erosion, transport, and deposition are linked to hydrologic events, topogra-
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE... 35 phy, and geologic structure. These patterns were probably the most obvi- ously changed by the construction of dams. Solution of materials (e.g., salts and nutrients) by the water from the drainage basin is dependent on solubility characteristics of the sources. They are further dependent on rainfall, whether it runs off or percolates into soils, the temperatures at which this happens, etc. The subsequent fates of dissolved materials are mediated by chemical and biological processes that, in turn, are controlled by physical features such as sunlight, temperature, and hydraulic turbulence patterns. Many of these components, e.g., patterns of nitrogen and phosphorus distribution and rates of photosynthesis, both in Lake Powell and downstream, were changed by the dam. Some system components are less obvious, however, and change is proceeding more slowly. The central point is that the changes are related to one another. This fact emphasizes Mat scientific inquiry must begin with definition of the compo- nents of the system and how they interact. When the elements of the system and their connections are defined, often resulting in a complex con- ceptual scheme, then and only then can the conceptual scheme be simplified or disaggregated into component parts for study. To begin with investigation of component parts, or seek solutions to narrowly defined problems, leaves too much of subsequent synthesis and integration of useful information to chance. There is risk of missing impor- tant information by not considering how components are interconnected. Thus, some things may not be learned that are crucial to interpretation, or worse, corrective management actions may be taken that have unintended detrimental effects. Another risk is that insignificant or inappropriate com- ponents may be included in study plans, resulting in wasted time or misap- propriated resources. OPPORTUNITY FOR MANAGEMENT The patterns and processes of the Colorado River ecosystem that are under consideration are changing slowly. Therefore, management protocols should seek to match the pace of phenomena. Subsequently, the pace of ecosystem responses to management will be similar so that the design of a performance monitoring plan should also match the pace of the change; i.e., our thinking and our actions should be long term. Once a conceptual scheme of the interacting components is established and their relationships to changing flows are understood, then the chance to use the dam to achieve desired states can be considered. Knowledge can be used to predict and to control, that is, to manage. However, management of a changing system can be expected to require continuous adjustment. A dam discharge regime that has desirable manage-
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36 COLORADO RIVER ECOLOGY AND DAM MANAGEMENT ment effects now may not have the desired effect a decade from now. Furthermore, unexpected responses to management discharges are likely because of uncertainty in understanding; any management plans to achieve particular goals will likewise be uncertain. The failure to achieve a man- agement target will therefore require management corrections. This means that ecosystem responses to management should be checked with a sus- tained program of monitoring and research so that requirements for mid- course adjustments are known. On the bright side' such corrections will be more certain to have desired results with each iteration because we will have learned about system re- sponses to the previous management flows; i.e., some uncertainty will have been removed and new knowledge will result. Thus, the sustained iteration of management and monitoring becomes a compelling way of documenting system status as it changes and of conduct- ing useful scientific investigation. This is the simple rationale for long- term collaborative efforts between science and management among the sis- ter agencies of the Department of the Interior. It is not a passive attempt to preserve an illusory or imagined pristine condition in the river but an active program to achieve predetermined desirable objectives. New knowledge acquired in the process will serve management of rivers elsewhere in the world, a major societal benefit of such a program. As water resources approach their limits and thus require greater effort to maintain their quality, this new knowledge will have significant utility. This is an opportunity for claiming world leadership in an important aspect of natural resource management. LONG-TERM MONITORING AND SUSTAINED EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH IN MANAGEMENT TERMS A long-term data base managed according to modern research data base protocols will document the changing status of the ecosystem. It also will help identify needs for management decisions and corrections. Analysis of the long-term record itself allows for the discrimination of long-term trends from cyclic phenomena (signals) and provides for analysis of short-term variation (noise) and the system's responses to management activities. Analyses of long-term data sets can correlate system elements, but they cannot provide for understanding of cause and effect. They can, however, suggest the short-term experiments necessary to evaluate cause and effect, and they provide the information for planning such experiments. After experiments have been performed, the long-term record aids in their inter- pretation because the status of the system when the experiment was per- formed is known. Conversely, experiments aid the interpretation of the long-term record because cause and effect can be better understood.
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE... 37 This mutually beneficial interaction of long-term monitoring and short term research is powerfully compelling both with respect to monitoring the performance of management decisions by providing a way to adjust them and with respect to applying scientific methods to learn new knowledge about complex systems. A long-term program without experiment is weak because cause and effect cannot be known. Management protocols, which depend on knowing cause and effect, are therefore less certain to work. On the other hand, a program of short-term experiments without the long-term record is weak because the results cannot be interpreted with as much certainty. Furthermore, the documentation of management responses is missing. This cannot be remedied because the long term record cannot be added later. The long-term monitoring should be renewed as soon as possible. MANAGEMENT IN SCIENTIFIC TERMS Natural ecosystem features (beaches, native fishes, riparian habitat) are likely management targets in the Grand Canyon National Park. Unfortu- nately, there are no preexisting river ecosystem models from which to bor- row or from which to develop management protocols. On the positive side, there are some important long-term data sets from the Colorado River be- cause of its historic importance. Furthermore, the very existence of Glen Canyon Dam provides a control structure just upstream from a national park of long standing, a protected reach of river with unusual potential opportu- nities for science and for management. Thus, when dam operations for management purposes are thought of as manipulative experiments, long-term data collection becomes performance monitoring. The mixes between management and research, between basic and applied research, and between problem and puzzle become mutually supportive rather than divisive. THE PRESENT STATE OF AFFAIRS It is clear that long-term ecosystem management programs such as those being considered here will require commitment and detailed planning. Careful planning is essential because the approach is novel at this magnitude. It will take cooperation among the sister agencies of the Department of the Interior. It will take a pact of cooperation among scientists and managers. It will also take cooperation among scientists within government and those from the academic sector to the extent that needed skills do not exist in the agencies. Approaching the task will call for commitment to institutional changes, for commitment to a program that will extend beyond the careers of indi-
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38 COLORADO RIVER ECOLOGY AND DAM MANAGEMENT viduals, and for willingness to think the unthinkable in terms of linking economics, policy, and law with science. In theory this seems quite natural; in practice it seems intractable. Many factions are competing now. The assumption of effective leadership will be difficult because understanding and credibility are in short supply. The absence of credible information!undermines the mutual trust that will be necessary to conduct scientific and unbiased evaluation of-the effects of operating Glen Canyon Dam. Recently, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Western Area Power Administration, all agencies with mission responsibilities (three in the Department of the Interior, one in The Department of Energy), have begun to prepare an environmental impact statement about the operations of the dam. These agencies have mission responsibilities defined by Congress. Thus, they view the river and the dam from such different perspectives, based on uses of the water resource in ways that are often incompatible, that the ecosystem perspective has been virtually impossible to develop. This difficulty was at the heart of the Na- tional Research Council criticism in December 1987, and it has not been corrected. To the extent that agency missions are incompatible and generate bias, they are more likely to be served than the truth about the effects of the operations of Glen Canyon on the basic geomorphic processes in the Colorado River as it flows from Glen Canyon Dam to Lake Mead. These are the processes that underpin river ecosystem function. Understanding them is cen- trally related to the level of uncertainty about management effectiveness. The approach that works may take many forms and could engage differ- ent numbers of people, but the costs need not be high. The basic views that must be accepted are (1) that the phenomena being influenced by dam operations are occurring on time scales better measured in decades than in years and (2) that they are tied to hydrologic and geomorphic processes that have been changed and are changing. Therefore, if the changes are to be understood and managed, then the management, investigations, and moni- toring must be scheduled to match the pace of events. Candidly, I fear that this opportunity for designing a proper approach to conducting science in concert with management is slipping away. On the other hand, if the common welfare has not been served by the present way of doing things, then we should find another way. The simple facts of the matter remain (1) construction of Glen Canyon Dam caused dramatic changes in the Colorado River ecosystem, (2) operational options available at Glen Canyon Dam are greater than those required to meet the purposes for which the dam was built, and (3) the Grand Canyon National Park generates strong feelings among a significant fraction of the U.S. population. The opportu- nity is there if someone has the courage, the will, and the conviction to take advantage of it.
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THE ROLE OF SCIENCE.. 39 REFERENCES Bartlett, R.A. 1962. Great Surveys of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press. 410p. Doyle, A.C. 1890. The Sign of the Four. Spencer Blackett. 283 p. National Research Council. 1987. River and Dam Management. National Academy Press, Washington. 203 p. Popper, K. 1965. Logic of Scientific Discovery. Harper, New York. 479 p. Powell, J.W. 1878. Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States. Congress of the United States (3rd Session) in the House of Representatives. Government Printing Office, Wash- ington. Stegner, W. 1954. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian. John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. Houghton MiMin, Boston. Reprinted 1982 University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 438 p. Watkins, T.H. 1983. Introduction to a facsimile edition of: Powell, J.W. 1878. Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States. Harvard Common Press, Boston.
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