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PS475/575 - Environmental Politics and Policy - Ecampus

Professor Brent S. Steel
Department of Political Science
307 Social Science Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon 97331-6206
(541) 737-6133

This is an OSU Extended Campus version of the course. For more information, go to the OSU Extended campus website:


OSU Catalog description: "Environmental and natural resource issues and policies in national and regional context, emphasizing public attitudes, elections, Congress, public policy, and relevant national and state agencies." While there is a prerequisite for the lecture version of the class, there is no prerequisite for the web version of the class taught by Professor Steel.

The web version of the environmental politics and policy course at Oregon State University will begin by focusing on environmental politics in general, and then proceed to discuss and evaluate environmental issues now facing the Pacific Northwest-particularly those involving public lands such as forests, rangelands, and salmon restoration efforts.

For the first section of the class, we will review some important political/social science concepts and then proceed to discuss differing approaches to studying the environment mentioned above. In the final weeks of the class we will discuss the possible political and policy ramifications of these different perspectives for environmental and natural resource issues facing the Pacific Northwest.

It will be necessary to use the World Wide Web (WWW) for this course. Assignments, think pieces, readings, and instructor communications will be given via the web and email. It will be necessary for all students to have access to the WWW and email to successfully complete this class.


Alternatively, through the term, we will consider:

  • Values concerning the environment and people's interaction with the natural world.
  • Properties of policy-formulating systems--particularly concerning the environment.
  • Distinguishing characteristics of natural resource and environmental issues.

Over the term fundamental features of policy processes will be developed (e.g., incrementalism, interest groups, governmental structures, regulatory capture, symbolic politics, etc.). In addition, distinguishing characteristics of natural resource and environmental issues will be developed (e.g., common pool resource or public good features, complexity and uncertainty, long feedback loops, exponentially escalating effects, etc.). Understanding of the political and value origins of environmental problem s will emerge as we try to integrate these topics; we will discover ways in which political systems are and are not suited to the requirements of natural resource and environmental issues from a national and international perspective.


This course was designed to offer students the flexibility of taking an undergraduate or graduate course via the World Wide Web.

All instruction, some readings, and assignments will be provided via the World Wide Web and email. All students enrolling in the web version of PS 475 must be self-motivated and comfortable using the electronic medium. A very flexible schedule and time -frame for completion of the course is available. If students want to access the Web and email via their own home computers, it will be necessary to acquire a commercial on-line account who can provide Netscape/Explorer versions 3.0 or later access.

There are a few general guidelines for success in this course. First, keep up with your readings and assignments. Second, ask if you do not understand something--use your email. Third, experiment with these new technologies, that is how you learn.


Available through the bookstore:

  • Switzer, Jacqueline Vaughn, Environmental Politics: Domestic and Global Dimensions (St. Martin's Press).
  • Davis, Charles ed., Western Public Lands and Environmental Politics (Westview Press).

Available at this web site:

  • "Competing Natural Resource Management Paradigms in the West." [Reading #1]
  • "Social Assessment Manual for Natural Resource Managers." [Reading #2]
  • "Environmental Values and Behavior: Hypocrisy or Consistency?" [Reading #3]
  • "Rural versus Urban Differences in Natural Resource Management Preferences." [Reading #4]
  • "Interest Group and Industry Techniques in the Policy Process." [Reading #5]
  • "Salmon Policy in Oregon"[Reading #6]
  • You will be required to keep a relatively structured journal concerning your thoughts and observations of materials encountered in and outside of class. Instructions for the journal are located at this web site: Journal Assignment.
  • In addition to the brief assignments and journal, there will be four 'think pieces' assigned which will have you discuss and analyze course materials.
  • Graduate students (those enrolled in PS 575) will be required to do an additional book review for the course from a suggested list of books: Graduate Students.
  • Think Pieces---100 points each
  • Journal---100 points
  • Graduate student book review (grad students only)-100 points
Assignment: Due date:
Thinkpiece #1  
Thinkpiece #2  
Thinkpiece #3  
Thinkpiece #4  
Graduate student book review  

Grade / [% of points:]
A / [95-100%]
A- / [90-94%]
B+ / [87-89%]
B / [83-86%]
B- / [80-82%]
C+ / [77-79%]
C / [73-76%]
C- / [70-72%]
D+ / [67-69%]
D / [63-66%]
D- / [60-62%]
F / [0-59%]

  • Advanced notice is required for late assignments.
  • Extra credit will not be allowed in this course.
  • Instructions for assignments and due dates will only be given via the course web site.
  • All OSU academic regulations will be followed in the course. Academic regulations are available at: . This includes the university policy concerning incompletes: "When a requirement of a course has not been completed for reasons acceptable to the instructor and the rest of the academic work is passing, a report of I may be made and additional time granted. The I is only granted at the discretion of the instructor.
  • You are expected to do all required reading.
  • Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated in this course. Engaging in such behaviors will result in a failing course grade. You are to do ALL of your own work. Plagiarism is defined as representing (and using) another person's ideas, writings, and work as one's own. Appropriate citation must be used for all materials incorporated into you work.
  • Proper spelling, grammar, and citation should be used in all assignments: Writing Assistance

The following criteria will be used for evaluating written assignments:
[1=Poor; 2=Average; 3=Good; 4=Excellent]

  • COMMITMENT-did you cover all relevant materials/questions?
  • AMBITION-did you take each issue to task?
  • ENGAGEMENT-did you make connections between issues?
  • CLARITY-was the assignment readable and well organized?
  • READINGS/COURSE MATERIALS-did you use appropriate reading and other course materials in your work? [note: cite everything appropriately]
  • COMPARISON-in general, how did your work compare to the rest of the class?
  • DIRECTIONS-a "no brainer" here. Did you follow directions?

Topics and Readings:

  1. INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE AND THE WEB- Review course syllabus, introduction, and overview; use the Ecosurfing and Salmon web sites to explore the world wide web-see what information and from what perspective is available; send Professor Steel a practice email and try sending an attachment. Readings: web reading #2 -this will introduce you to the various approaches used by social scientists to study the social values of environmental and natural resource issues.
  2. THE EMERGENCE OF MAINSTREAM (WESTERN) ENVIRONMENTALISM AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY--Rise of conservation and environmental movements in Western societies; changing environmental and natural resource management paradigms; changing science and technology and the impact on society; "yogurt eaters for wilderness." Readings: web reading #1; web reading #3; web reading #4; Switzer, Chapter 1.
  3. THE ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY PROCESS AND PARTICIPANTS- Introduction to environmental policy processes and the actors involved; strategies of influence in the policy process; interest groups; government agencies; value of participation to political systems. Readings: Web reading #5; Switzer, Chapters 2 and 3.
  4. DOMESTIC ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN THE UNITED STATES-Stewardship and protection of public and private lands; hazardous waste; the politics of energy; water policy- quality and quantity. Readings: Switzer, Chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 a nd 10.
  5. WESTERN PUBLIC LANDS AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS- Politics, policy and change in western public lands management.
  • Introduction to western public lands issues- Davis ed., Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4 (pp. 1-73)
  • Public Rangelands Policy- C. Davis in Davis ed. Chapter 5 (pp. 74-94)
  • Mining Policy- C.M. Klyza in Davis ed. Chapter 6 (pp. 95-121)
  • Energy Policy- D.H. Davis in Davis ed. Chapter 7 (pp. 122-149)
  • National Parks Policy- W.R. Lowry in Davis ed. Chapter 8 (pp. 150-171)
  • Wilderness Policy- C.W. Allin in Davis ed. Chapter 9 (pp. 172-191)
  • Salmon Policy in Oregon- web reading #6
  • Policy Change- C. Davis in Davis ed. Chapter 10 (pp. 193-202)

Note: "Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodations, who have any emergency medical information the instructor should know, or who need special arrangements in the event of e vacation, should make an appointment with the instructor as early as possible (use email for this class), no later than the first week of the term. In order to arrange alternative testing the student should make the request at least one week in advance o f the test. Students seeking accommodations should be registered with the Office of Services for Students with disabilities."