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​Embracing Collaboration to Improve Environmental and Natural Resource Policy

Phil Sharp

The environmental and natural resource challenges we face are complex and multidimensional. By their nature, they require collaborative solutions.

To take just one example, the article by Lynn Scarlett, Rebecca Epanchin-Niell, and Matthew McKinney in this issue highlights the ways in which fulfilling the mission of the US Endangered Species Act is prompting cooperation across disciplines, jurisdictions, institutions, and the public and private sectors.

The collaborative nature of today’s environmental initiatives has implications for our work at RFF, where partnerships are increasingly becoming standard practice. Leonard Shabman’s work with the World Wildlife Fund and others to help implement a payment-for-ecosystem-services program in Florida—also featured in this issue—gives a flavor of what’s involved in RFF’s shared efforts.

We also have long-standing partners—such as the international Environment for Development network, which brings together scholars from around the world to produce vital economic research that supports both economic growth and environmental quality. Similarly, we partnered with the University of Maryland to establish the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, known as SESYNC, a cutting-edge center that is a home for collaborative research on such critical issues as water availability, sustainable food production, and the interaction between human activity and healthy ecosystems.

And just recently, we’ve received word of funding for several new major collaborations that will address important natural resource and risk-related issues, including aging infrastructure, changing demographics, extreme weather events, and biodiversity protection. These initiatives are strongly interdisciplinary, bringing together the fields of engineering, economics, risk assessment, public health, and hydrology, among others. RFF’s many first-class partners include Johns Hopkins University, the University of South Florida, and Yale University.

Many of these new efforts fall within RFF’s Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth. In one new partnership, RFF researchers will collaborate with partners to reimagine aging coastal infrastructure in urban areas to maximize nutrient recovery and management. In another, a team will examine how certain regions can build resilience to the impacts of repeated hurricanes and heat waves. Other researchers have received funding to help Latin American and Caribbean countries make more effective investments in biodiversity conservation.

We are excited about enhancing RFF’s existing partnerships and building new collaborations. Not only do they serve as a tremendous experience and inspiration for our researchers, they also offer the opportunity for RFF to introduce its unique brand of policy research expertise to new and important circles.

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