Despite the fairness implicit in the democratic process - one person, one vote - the system more often than not leaves
at least one person unhappy with the outcome, perhaps profoundly so.
Ask any family that has conducted a vote on what to have for dinner; the lone sibling who caucused for fish sticks
likely will not be pleased with the plate of majority-selected sloppy joes. Nevertheless, democracy is perhaps the most
expeditious way to make a decision that at least gathers everyone's input, whether it is considered or not.
Contrast this with the consensus-based process and two very different discussions - and outcomes - are revealed.
Consensus-building would take the sloppy-joe advocates, put them in a room with the fish-stick interests, and also
invite taco proponents, the pizza lobby and sushi representatives to the table. After identifying the diners' shared
values, they would then commence to hash out their differences, similarities and positions about which they are willing
to move. In the end, the group might opt to go out for cheeseburgers. No one got exactly what he wanted, but everyone
could live with the meal.
This latter approach was the one employed in the Hermosa Creek Workgroup process that, after 22 months of debate,discussion, compromise, blood, sweat and tears, produced a set of recommendations that everyone involved supports. This
was no small feat, given the range - and diversity - of interests who engaged in the process, and the fact that
everyone involved had to give up something important to them and yet still can stand behind the outcome makes it
The recommendations, which have been sent to U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, with a request that he draft
legislation that embodies the group's plan, would cast a range of protections over the Hermosa Creek watershed such
that the area's many significant recreational, conservation, wildlife, economic, community and other values are
preserved. Under the proposal, the area is divided, in the group's proposal, into three zones. Zone 1, west of Hermosa
Creek, would be designated wilderness; Zone 2, which abuts the east side of the creek, would be incorporated into an
un-roaded special management area; and Zone 3 at the northern portion of the watershed where some roads and higher
impact activities are currently permitted, would remain a more heavily used area.
These protections - the details of which are available in the group's final report at
protection - represent the common values identified at the workgroup's outset, that, The Hermosa Creek area is
exceptional because it is a large, intact (unfragmented) natural watershed containing diverse ecosystems, including
fish, plants and wildlife, over a broad elevation range, and supports a variety of multiple uses, including recreation
and grazing, in the vicinity of a large town."
Much like the hungry family with a shared vision of becoming full, the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, in identifying together
where it wanted to go, was able to get there. There were sacrifices, to be sure, but the relationships and
community-building that developed during the process add great value to the result. And really, who can't live with a
Megan Graham is director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.