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Manager perspectives on communication and public engagement in ecological restoration project success

Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, University of Rhode Island
Kristen C. Hychka, U.S. EPA, Atlantic Ecology Division


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We look to a particular social-ecological system, the restoration community in Rhode Island, USA and the rivers, wetlands, marshes, and estuaries they work to protect, to draw connections between communication, community involvement, and ecological restoration project success. Offering real-world examples drawn from interviews with 27 local, state, federal, and nonprofit restoration managers, we synthesize the mechanisms that managers found effective to argue that the communication employed by resource managers in each phase of the restoration process, in prioritization, implementation, and monitoring, and for garnering broad-based support, shapes the quality of public engagement in natural resources management, which, in turn, can impact the stakeholder, learning, and ecological success of restoration projects. Despite the possible trade-offs and conflicts between social and ecological outcomes, we suggest that managers need to consider their desired social-ecological outcomes and work from the outset to deliberately design mechanisms for communication and public engagement that weave community stakeholders into all phases of restoration projects in sustained and consequential ways.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; adaptive management; communication; discourse analysis; natural resource management; public engagement; public participation; restoration; river; stakeholder engagement; water

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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