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Do Adaptive Comanagement Processes Lead to Adaptive Comanagement Outcomes? A Multicase Study of Long-term Outcomes Associated with the National Riparian Service Team’s Place-based Riparian Assistance

Jill A. Smedstad, Oregon State University
Hannah Gosnell, Oregon State University


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Adaptive comanagement (ACM) is a novel approach to environmental governance that combines the dynamic learning features of adaptive management with the linking and network features of collaborative management. There is growing interest in the potential for ACM to resolve conflicts around natural resource management and contribute to greater social and ecological resilience, but little is known about how to catalyze long lasting ACM arrangements. We contribute to knowledge on this topic by evaluating the National Riparian Service Team’s (NRST) efforts to catalyze ACM of public lands riparian areas in seven cases in the western U.S. We found that the NRST’s approach offers a relatively novel model for integrating joint fact-finding, multiple forms of knowledge, and collaborative problem solving to improve public lands riparian grazing management. With this approach, learning and dialogue often helped facilitate the development of shared understanding and trust, key features of ACM. Their activities also influenced changes in assessment, monitoring, and management approaches to public lands riparian area grazing, also indicative of a transition to ACM. Whereas these effects often aligned with the NRST's immediate objectives, i.e., to work through a specific issue or point of conflict, there was little evidence of long-term effects beyond the specific issue or intervention; that is, in most cases the initiative did not influence longer term changes in place-based governance and institutions. Our results suggest that the success of interventions aimed at catalyzing the transformation of governance arrangements toward ACM may hinge on factors external to the collaborative process such as the presence or absence of (1) dynamic local leadership and (2) high quality agreements regarding next steps for the group. Efforts to establish long lasting ACM institutions may also face significant constraints and barriers, including existing laws and regulations associated with public land management.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; collaborative processes; evaluation; U.S. West

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