Beyond Polarization: Public Process and the Unlikely Story of California's Marine Protected Areas

Beyond Polarization: Public Process and the Unlikely Story of California's Marine Protected Areas
By Steven Lewis Yaffee
In a time when the United States is divided and positive collective action feels out of our grasp, Beyond Polarization tells a story of hope and hard work. That story goes back to 1999, when California passed a landmark piece of legislation to establish a system of marine protected areas off its coast that would safeguard miles of fragile ocean resources. After a contentious ten-year public process, establishment of a network of 124 protected areas was considered nothing short of miraculous. As important as this achievement was, the legacy it left was even more enduring: a blueprint for successful public policy that can be replicated elsewhere. What lessons can we draw?

California's experience provides a rare opportunity to learn from a collaborative public process involving private interests and science-intensive decisions. Determined to do just that, Steven Yaffee, a renowned expert on negotiation and collaborative decision making, spent hundreds of hours researching the MLPA process in an effort to understand how California succeeded where other efforts have failed. The result is Beyond Polarization, a highly readable insider's perspective on complicated decision-making processes and the strategic choices necessary for success. The book follows the initiative process region by region, each with its unique stakeholders and geographic concerns. These lessons can be applied to similar collaborative processes across the country and world.

Beyond Polarization presents an optimistic message about the public policy process in a time of civic division. It offers reassurance that, by using proven decision-making processes, policymakers, scientists, and local citizens can successfully collaborate to manage and protect natural resources we all have a stake in.

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