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Navigating a Murky Adaptive Comanagement Governance Network: Agua Fria Watershed, Arizona, USA

Cameron Childs, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University
Abigail M. York, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University
Dave White, School of Community Resources and Development, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
Michael L. Schoon, School of Sustainability, Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University
Gitanjali S. Bodner, The Nature Conservancy, Tucson, Arizona


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Adaptive comanagement endeavors to increase knowledge and responsiveness in the face of uncertainty and complexity. However, when collaboration between agency and nonagency stakeholders is mandated, rigid institutions may hinder participation and ecological outcomes. In this case study we analyzed qualitative data to understand how participants perceive strengths and challenges within an emerging adaptive comanagement in the Agua Fria Watershed in Arizona, USA that utilizes insight and personnel from a long-enduring comanagement project, Las Cienegas. Our work demonstrates that general lessons and approaches from one project may be transferable, but particular institutions, management structures, or projects must be place-specific. As public agencies establish and expand governance networks throughout the western United States, our case study has shed light on how to maintain a shared vision and momentum within an inherently murky and shared decision-making environment.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; Agua Fria watershed, Arizona; governance network; qualitative research

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087