Public Participation, Citizen Engagement, and Environmental Decision Making

Dorothy M. Daley

in The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental Policy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199744671
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
Public Participation, Citizen Engagement, and Environmental Decision Making


This article reviews literature that explores civic engagement and environmental decision making in American politics; assesses its strengths and weaknesses; identifies broad areas of agreement and divergence; and pinpoints knowledge gaps that future research should address. Specifically, it examines the background and history of public participation and environmental policy, emphasizing the tension between scientifically informed decision making, democratic ideals, and broad changes in environmental policy. It also outlines the arguments for and against widespread participation in environmental decision making. The article explores the notion of what constitutes a community and the challenges inherent in identifying and defining “the public” in a decentralized political system. It describes and assesses different decision-making approaches that utilize public participation, ranging from traditional public hearings and comments to more involved collaborative decision processes. Finally, it discusses the ways in which public participation influences environmental decision making and suggests areas of inquiry for future research.

Keywords: civic engagement; environmental decision making; environmental policy; public participation

Article.  7441 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics

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