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Using decision support tools in multistakeholder environmental planning: restorative justice and subbasin planning in the Columbia River Basin


  • Gregory Hill

    (University of Portland)

  • Steven Kolmes

    (University of Portland)

  • Michael Humphreys

    (Bethune-Cookman University)

  • Rebecca McLain

    (Institute for Culture and Ecology)

  • Eric T. Jones

    (Institute for Culture and Ecology)


Decision support tools have been shown to encourage the development of shared mental models about ecosystem dynamics when they are used in collaborative processes that bring together technical experts and other stakeholders on a regular basis over an extended period. However, when a diverse set of stakeholders is involved in environmental planning, the likelihood is high that participants will come to the table with significantly different capacities for using technological tools, different epistemologies, and different standpoints. We use the Columbia River subbasin planning effort in the northwestern USA as a case example for gaining a clearer understanding of how the use of decision support systems (DSS) affects who participates and how they participate in multistakeholder environmental planning processes. We also utilize an ethical analysis to examine the implications of the subbasin planning process. We found that the ways in which decision support tools are used (i.e., as flexible or rigid frames) as well as the structure of the planning environment influenced the quality of the data entered into the models, the quality of model output interpretation, epistemological plurality, and restorative justice. We conclude, from the perspective of restorative justice, that more attention and effort needs to be paid to past, present, and future harms to different stakeholder groups in subbasin planning. We suggest ways forward using a place-based perspective and also identify a persistent problem in knitting together local solutions into a larger scale framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Hill & Steven Kolmes & Michael Humphreys & Rebecca McLain & Eric T. Jones, 2019. "Using decision support tools in multistakeholder environmental planning: restorative justice and subbasin planning in the Columbia River Basin," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 9(2), pages 170-186, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jenvss:v:9:y:2019:i:2:d:10.1007_s13412-019-00548-x
    DOI: 10.1007/s13412-019-00548-x

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