Washington Law Review


Holly Doremus


Dealing with uncertainty is widely recognized as the key challenge for environmental and natural resource decisionmaking. Too often, though, that challenge is considered only from an ex ante perspective which treats uncertainty as an invariant feature that must be accounted for but cannot be changed. With respect to many natural resource management decisions, that picture is misleading. Decisions are often iterative or similar, providing significant opportunities for leaming. Where such opportunities are available and inaction is not feasible or desirable, learning while doing can provide the benefits of both the precautionary principle and scientific decisionmaking while minimizing the key weaknesses of each. After highlighting the benefits of a learning-while-doing approach to natural resource management, this paper briefly addresses how management agencies might be encouraged to adopt such an approach.

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