Here we evaluate dispute resolution as a method of public participation. Methods for engaging the public in decisionmaking range along a continuum from informal consultations with individual citizens to highly formalized processes for seeking agreement among organized nongovernmental interest groups. Dispute resolution lies at the more formal and intensive end of the continuum. Examining dispute resolution as a form of public participation can provide insights not available from the more common practice of evaluating dispute resolution just as an alternative to litigation. 1

To compare dispute resolution with other forms of public participation, we evaluate a large number of actual cases based on a set of public participation's social goals. These social goals embody many of the expectations and

aspirations for how increased involvement of the public can improve environmental decisionmaking.2 They are the following:

- incorporating public values into decisions, - increasing the substantive quality of decisions, - resolving conflict among competing interests, - building trust in institutions, and - educating and informing the public.