Gilbert F. White
A: Certainly organizational inertia would play a role as it would with any large
well-established group that was being confronted with new ideas. But there
was more to it than that. I think a major obstacle was the feeling among
many members of the Corps staff that they were not trained to do and were
not competent for the sorts of analysis that were called for in examination of
nonstructural alternatives. They were reluctant to expose themselves to
judgments and data analysis relating to recreational land use, wildlife values,
or comparative function in an urban economy of units located in alternative
sites. This was well beyond their training. They didn't want to produce
analyses that would then be criticized by people outside the field.
It was interesting to me that some of the people who found it easier to engage
in analysis of nonstructural measures were those that had been trained outside
of the engineering professions. Some of the geographers, for example, were
ones that picked it up--people like George Phippen.
Q: Why do you find that interesting? Wouldn't that be logical that a person in
the social science fields would be able to more easily analyze human impact
than an engineer would?
A: I should have recognized this at the time. But many of us did not. The
engineers did not deny the desirability of making that kind of analysis. They
simply were reluctant to do it themselves or to have any of their staff do it.
It wasn't easy to have an argument about the approach in principle. People
would say, yes, that's a good idea; we ought to do it. Then when it came to
trying, they held back. It came out in some little Corps workshops that were
held around the country later, much later. I think if we had suggested that the
Corps launch workshops for engineers, by engineers, not social scientists
coming to enlighten the engineers, but some engineers who knew how to do
it themselves telling others, it might have moved much more rapidly than it
did. This gets at the whole question of how to generate change in
Q: The engineers didn't seem to be too reluctant to count in recreation in a cost-
benefit ratio once that was made legal as a result of the 1965 Recreation Act.
A: Sure, but that was a much simpler kind of analysis. All they had to do was
get some figures about user days, and get some economist to tally up for them