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Understanding Adaptive Management

The mine’s Adaptive Management Plan, a document required by their National Pollution Discharge Elimination Program (NPDES, or wastewater discharge permit), was intended to frame the analysis and discussion at the annual coordination meeting held each spring.
Adaptive management is a natural resources management concept that attempts to rectify the inherent challenges present in resource decision-making and planning, such as scientific or climactic uncertainty, to allow for a fluid process, one that adapts when new information is realized. It is an iterative and reflective process that asks managers to consider the successes and failures of the previous year and adjust management strategies as appropriate. On Buckhorn Mountain, this process is guided by an evaluation tool, the Adaptive Management Plan, which asks a series of questions about the operation and impacts of the mine. Depending on the answers to those questions, a new response or management action may be triggered. While this approach generally provides a reasonable method to evaluate and fine-tune management actions, the analysis is only as good as the questions posed. Further, the outcome is only as good as the actions taken.