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This information is intended to convey the underlying concepts for Reclamation's decision processes. It is not mandatory.
See the Reclamation Manual for official Reclamation-wide requirements.

Reclamation's Decision Process Guide


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Who They Are


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navigate in the page--Who They Are

Everyone has to make tactical decisions about which dragon to fight. Discover how vetoers have allocated their resources . They may decide your dragon is too costly to slay or they are battling more significant dragons. Try to reach an agreement not to fight. If you can't, see if your dragon is worth the price of the battle.

Keep track of levels of opposition --and the reasons behind them.

Today, anyone can delay or even stop your process by lobbying Congress, initiating court action, or rallying a grassroots effort to oppose your action. You cannot take away their right to fight.

You may be tempted to call anyone sufficiently motivated to stop your project "the opposition" or "the enemy." These terms preclude the possibility of working together to develop a more comprehensive solution and may separate "them" into a true opposition.

Managing conflict is a large part of solving the problem. Thus, you need to pay attention to potential vetoer's*definition issues and actively seek their participation and consent --no matter how grudgingly it may be given. Government actions everyone can support are extremely rare. Some people may be directly or indirectly harmed by the action, some people may think they will be harmed, others have been burned by previous government actions, and still others are opposed to any action--governmental or private.

Providing vetoers with an active, substantive role within your process will do far more than stave off resistance. It will:

  • Bring new ideas and perspectives
  • Uncover fatal flaws in your proposed solutions
  • Point out areas that need to be considered
  • Find watchdogs to ensure your actions follow your words
  • Bring credibility to your process

Thus, identifying all potential vetoers and making them a part of the process is essential. Identify the vetoers, research their networks, and involve all vetoers in the process. If you have a group that holds out, try to enlist participation from groups that are close to them. Also, keep that group informed and give them regular opportunities to participate.

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navigate in the page--Working With Potential Vetoers

Establishing ground rules for communication and following these rules will buy respect and may yield some support from vetoers.


Manipulating or ignoring vetoers is at best naive and at worst suicidal. If they suspect any machinations, you will probably lose your credibility and ability to solve this or any future problems. Ignoring vetoers also lays the groundwork for costly court battles.

click for comics(Why seek common ground?)

If groups are involved, they are more likely to understand the complexities and interactions. This understanding helps to reach compromises and avoid conflicts. You can involve these groups and individuals by:

  • Finding out what their real issues are (don't rely on rumors, mythtruths or superficial statements)
  • Communicating informally as well as formally
  • Consider giving them materials (even drafts) when you give them to core team members (plan and discuss this ahead of time).
  • Addressing their comments
  • Respecting their position
  • Recognizing their issues
  • Negotiating aspects of the process (e.g., timing, definitions, or analyses)
  • Providing opportunities for them to speak

At times, vetoers will still refuse to participate. You need to demonstrate that it is to their advantage to participate--that their concerns will be better addressed within the process rather than outside the process because:

  • If they participate, their needs may be met.
  • Even if the study doesn't lead to their preferred outcome, their participation may make the results less harmful to their interests through compromises and tradeoffs.
  • If they don't participate, they'll miss the opportunity to mitigate impacts*definition and tell others about their concerns.

Some groups may refuse to participate and may actually seek to subvert the process. Take the time to figure out why. Some parties don't want to be at the table because it preserves their options for going outside the process. For example, groups with little political power may not feel that the process will result in recommendations they can support. Outlining the steps and showing the process as open and equitable may provide a foundation to resolve differences.

Vetoers may be trying to maintain an image of being against the project or solution. Giving them the leeway to posture for their cause and talking informally will make it easier for them to participate in the process. Find a way to reach an understanding (formal or informal) if you possibly can. If vetoers have too much of a stake in the outcome, or if they are willing to spend a lot of resources to stop the process, then you need to reconsider your position.

Can you resolve the impasse (e.g., re define the problem , consider additional needs , make tradeoffs , or add analyses )? Are you willing to spend the resources that will be necessary to continue the process?

Training in dispute resolution and other facilitation techniques and communicating face to face can help the core team understand that conflict is not the end of the world.

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navigate in the page--Go On

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Please contact Deena Larsen 303-445-2584 with questions or comments on this material.