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Deliberation, Learning, and the Decision Process
As a society, we are learning how to value and manage biodiversity. The tools we use in valuation and management must reflect and facilitate the continuing learning process. We urge that managers view their efforts as experiments. This requires humility because outcomes are uncertain. And it requires flexibility because policies might have to altered midstream as science develops better understanding, as societal values evolve, and as the biophysical environment changes. It requires mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating. Analytic deliberation processes are a flexible tool that can aid in such learning. They allow for reflection on what has been done, on what has resulted, on how values and science have changed, and on courses for the future.
As though the scientific complexities were not daunting enough, managers' work is further taxed because it is clear that there is no single "public interest" when it comes to biodiversity. In chapter 4, we note the diversity of philosophical positions that can be used to understand the value of biodiversity. The public partakes of all these views and others as well. Thus, some conflict and diversity of opinion are inevitable. The variety and conflict that result will always arise in public management of biodiversity. Nor can managers ignore the conflict. Biodiversity management takes place under public scrutiny. Government decision-makers are required by such laws as NEPA to allow the public to participate in the decision-making process concerning publicly owned resources. How can information on the values of resources effectively inform decision-makers in a way that allows them to incorporate the wide range of public viewpoints expressed?
The nation's legal system imposes additional constraints on proposals: they must comply with federal and state laws, they must objectively present socially ethical proposals, access to opportunities or resources must be equitable, and decisions must fall within the missions and legal mandates of the agencies charged with implementing them. A decision that fails to comply with any of those requirements, no matter how positive the social benefits, can be quickly overturned on appeal to the legal system. That leaves a relatively small decision space within which decision-makers must operate, and it is within this decision space that one must try to draw conclusions that are fair, competent, and efficient. Analytical techniques, such as those described in chapter 5, can be a great aid in making decisions. But ultimately such techniques are not sufficient. The analytic deliberative process described here is an important aid to understanding conflicts, resolving them when possible, and building trust. But it too is not a panacea. The analytic deliberative approach is justified on normative, substantive, and instrumental grounds (Fiorino 1990). It is normatively appropriate in that it allows all parties affected by a decision to have a say in it. It is substan-