UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Alpine Lakes of Washington State : a case study of bureaucratic decision-making Hyde, Brian Reed


This thesis has been a study of the planning and decision-making process in a highly structured bureaucracy charged with managing natural resources. The intent was to learn how decisions are made by such a bureaucracy in a controversial situation with a high degree of involvement by interest groups. The U. S. Forest Service has managed a large portion of the Alpine Lakes area of the Washington Cascades as a Limited Area since 1946, Since this classification, which precludes timber harvesting and other development, is administrative and not statutory, the reclassification of the Limited Area and some of the adjacent lands has been a source of controversy for many years. In July of 1972 a special study team was formed by the Forest Service to study the area, develop a public involvement program, and prepare a legislative proposal for classification of the area or part of it as a Wilderness Area. The thesis assessed the factors that determined the nature of the study team's recommendations for the classification and management of the area. The model used to facilitate this analysis was that of an information processing system. Information received from outside the organization and information generated within it is processed and fed into the decision. A review of the literature on this subject led to the formulation of the following basic propositions which guided the analysis. Proposition 1: The study team's output, its recommendation concerning the Alpine Lakes area, was determined by the objectives of the study team and the influence of the information received and considered by the study team. Proposition 2: The study team's objectives were determined by the rules constraining it and the attitudes and perceptions of the members of the study team. Proposition 3: The information which affected the output of the study team consisted of a) information which was received from outside and screened and interpreted by the study team in accord with the values of the study team members and b) information generated by the study team. Proposition 4: The information generated by the study team and the screening and interpretation of information from outside were determined by a) the rules constraining the study team, b) the attitudes and perceptions of study team members, and c) the resources available to the study team. The criteria for a Wilderness prescribed by the Wilderness Act together with Forest Service policy limited in important respects the area the study team could include in a proposed Wilderness. Similarly Forest Service policy with regard to National Recreation Areas precluded the team from recommending that a portion of the region be made into a National Recreation Area. Within these constraints the study team had a great deal of flexibility and its conclusions were the result of its interpretation of information in accord with its attitudes and perceptions. In this connection two attitudes and perceptions were of paramount importance, namely: 1. The desires of conservation groups must be sufficiently well satisfied that there would not be a repetition of the North Cascades episode in which the Forest Service lost several hundred thousand acres to the National Park Service. 2. As much land as possible should be retained in a multiple use status for timber harvesting, motorized recreation, and other non-Wilderness uses. The foregoing constraints, attitudes, and perceptions, together with others examined in the thesis caused the study team to generate and interpret information received from both inside and outside of the Forest Service so as to produce a recommendation which did not go quite as far as the conservationists wished but which went much further than those who sought to minimize the size of the area allocated to Wilderness wanted. The thesis demonstrates the importance of political inputs and the attitudes and perceptions of planning personnel to the planning process, and it provides a framework for examining the decision process in other situations.

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