National Park Service


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


The question of how, and to what degree, the public should be involved with policy-setting is fundamental to strengthening—and thereby improving—the democratic process. Public agencies, including land management agencies, wrestle with appropriate and meaningful strategies for stakeholder involvement. Even the framers of our Constitution struggled with the basic question of “whether democratic citizens should be expected to work out the solution to such struggles directly among themselves or whether it is possible to adopt a machinery of government which would pump out solutions without requiring such direct citizen engagement. Should the burden of solving public problems rest most directly on citizenship or on government?” (Kemmis 1990:11). It’s no wonder then, that throughout the western United States where large swaths of public land abut private and state lands—and where second homes sprout like weeds—land managers and interested parties alike struggle for meaning in the public participation process.