Environmental Management

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 268–284 | Cite as

The Weakness of Tight Ties: Why Scientists Almost Destroyed the Coachella Valley Multispecies Habitat Conservation Plan in Order to Save it

  • Bruce Evan Goldstein


Two groups of biologists were responsible for an unprecedented delay in completing a endangered species habitat conservation plan in the Coachella Valley of southern California. While antagonism grew as each group relentlessly promoted their perspective on whether to add a few areas to the habitat preserve, their inability to resolve their differences was not simply a matter of mistrust or poor facilitation. I analyze how these biologists practiced science in a way that supported specific institutional and ecological relationships that in turn provided a setting in which each group’s biological expertise was meaningful, credible, and useful. This tight coupling between scientific practice and society meant that something was more important to these scientists than finishing the plan. For both factions of biologists, ensuring the survival of native species in the valley rested on their ability to catalyze institutional relationships that were compatible with their scientific practice. Understanding this co-production of science and the social order is a first step toward effectively incorporating different experts in negotiation and implementation of technically complex collaborative agreements.


Collaboration Scientific advisory committee Co-production Endangered species Habitat conservation plan 



Thanks to the scientists and stakeholders of the Coachella Valley for generously sharing their time and work. This work was supported by a doctoral dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation (SDEST-9987683) and a Morris K. Udall Environmental Policy and Conflict Resolution Dissertation Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Planning and DesignUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

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