The Bush administration adopted the term "cooperative conservation" in 2004 as a way of describing its philosophy of encouraging multiple local players to voluntarily take on the responsibilities of protecting the environment. Supporters say this approach offers a good way of boosting bottom-up, non-litigious efforts that avoid the heavy hand of the federal government. Critics say it allows the feds to avoid taking responsibility for efforts that require national leadership, and could set the stage for weakening important federal environmental laws.
The cooperative conservation movement has been around long enough to give a good sense of how it's working on the ground. As a starting point, you can check out 21 projects that the Dept. of Interior is touting as good role models. These were publicized in a tie-in with Earth Day, on April 21, 2008. The press release, including a listing of the winning efforts, is here. For more information, including names of the groups, agencies, and individuals involved with each project, see the series of April 21, 2008, press releases.
Scores of other specific projects are included on the home page of the cooperative conservation effort.
For much more on cooperative conservation, including names of many supporters and critics, see the TipSheet of Aug. 16, 2006.