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Using social-ecological systems theory to evaluate large-scale comanagement efforts: a case study of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region

William Tyson, University of Victoria


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Comanagement efforts are increasingly tasked with overseeing natural resource governance at a large scale. I examine comanagement of subsistence harvesting in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) of the western Canadian Arctic, using a social-ecological systems framework. In doing so, this study joins a growing list of research that reviews design principles commonly found in successful small-scale commons management and applies them to a large resource area. This research uses the management of beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) as case studies in understanding the management framework of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, as each species is important in Inuvialuit culture and is actively managed and monitored. Comanagement bodies in the study area display many of the institutional design principles that are characteristic of successful social-ecological systems. Particularly mentionable are the presence of well-organized nested enterprises and a strong incorporation of local knowledge and monitoring. This supports the application of institutional design principles in large-scale analyses of resource management. However, due to the network of policy and management outside the ISR that influences each species, this research suggests that in cases of wide-ranging resource bases, these types of analyses may be better suited to evaluating broad management networks rather than discrete governing regions.

Key words

common pool resources; Elinor Ostrom design principles; Inuvialuit Settlement Region; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2017 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