Results of community deliberation about social impacts of ecological restoration: Comparing public input of self-selected versus actively engaged community members

Charles C. Harris, Erik Nielsen, Dennis R. Becker, Dale J. Blahna, William J. McLaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Participatory processes for obtaining residents' input about community impacts of proposed environmental management actions have long raised concerns about who participates in public involvement efforts and whose interests they represent. This study explored methods of broadbased involvement and the role of deliberation in social impact assessment. Interactive community forums were conducted in 27 communities to solicit public input on proposed alternatives for recovering wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest US. Individuals identified by fellow residents as most active and involved in community affairs ("AE residents") were invited to participate in deliberations about likely social impacts of proposed engineering and ecological actions such as dam removal. Judgments of these AE participants about community impacts were compared with the judgments of residents motivated to attend a forum out of personal interest, who were designated as self-selected ("SS") participants. While the magnitude of impacts rated by SS participants across all communities differed significantly from AE participants' ratings, in-depth analysis of results from two community case studies found that both AE and SS participants identified a large and diverse set of unique impacts, as well as many of the same kinds of impacts. Thus, inclusion of both kinds of residents resulted in a greater range of impacts for consideration in the environmental impact study. The case study results also found that the extent to which similar kinds of impacts are specified by AE and SS group members can differ by type of community. Study results caution against simplistic conclusions drawn from this approach to community-wide public participation. Nonetheless, the results affirm that deliberative methods for community-based impact assessment involving both AE and SS residents can provide a more complete picture of perceived impacts of proposed restoration activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012



  • Community-based resource management
  • Ecological restoration
  • Public deliberation
  • Public involvement
  • Salmon recovery
  • Social impact assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Pollution

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