Bringing Society Back In

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

Bringing Society Back In

Grassroots Ecosystem Management, Accountability, and Sustainable Communities

By Edward P. Weber





In the last two decades, people in a growing number of localities in the United States have developed grassroots ecosystem management (GREM) as a means to resolve policy problems affecting their environment, economy, and communities. Ad hoc and voluntary groups of environmentalists, developers, businesspeople, federal and state resource managers, farmers, loggers, local citizens, and those representing recreation interests use deliberation and consensus to enhance public policy performance. Instead of focusing on specific issues such as air pollution, GREM emphasizes the integrated management of entire watersheds and ecosystems. But what happens to democratic accountability in these collaborative efforts? Despite concerns that they might result in special interest government, the acceleration of environmental degradation, and an end-run around national environmental protection laws, this book suggests otherwise.

Bringing Society Back In establishes a theoretical framework for exploring issues of policy performance and democratic accountability raised by GREM. Through three case studies—the Applegate Partnership in Oregon, the Henry's Fork Watershed Council in Idaho, and the Willapa Alliance in Washington state—it explores the mechanisms used to determine how accountability works. The book finds that by combining traditional and formal governance structures with informal institutions, GREM can be accountable to individuals, communities, surrounding regions, and the nation. The book also identifies conditions under which GREM is most likely to achieve democratic accountability. In addition, it investigates the connection between accountability and policy performance. The evidence suggests that GREM can produce environmental policy outcomes that are supportive not only of the environment and economy, but also of environmental sustainability.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262232265 334 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262731515 334 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • This book... sets out an elaborated model that operationalizes accountability in decentralized, collaborative, shared-power goverance.



  • The next generation of American environmental policy is likely to involve new governance arrangements that give expanded authority to more decentralized entities. Few scholars have as strong a sense of what this transition may entail as does Edward Weber. In this important book, he undertakes a careful examination of grassroots approaches to ecosystem management and offers a rich analysis of their early impacts on democratic accountability and environmental quality.

    Barry G. Rabe

    Director, Program in the Environment, University of Michigan

  • In Bringing Society Back In, Edward Weber offers a rich and insightful analysis of whether and how decentralized, collaborative, and participative governance arrangements can produce broad-based democratic accountability, particularly in environmental policy. This book is an indispensable first scholarly step that both tells us a lot and makes a strong case for a great deal more attention, both empirical and theoretical, to these phenomena.

    Robert V. Bartlett

    Department of Political Science, Purdue University

  • Weber has written the best explanation of how citizen-based conflict resolution processes can work and remain accountable to democratic institutions. This book is unique in the way it combines scholarship from alternative dispute resolution, environmental policy, public administration, political theory, and philosophy into a comprehensive, conceptually integrated analysis.

    Daniel McCool

    Department of Political Science, University of Utah