Do adaptive co-management processes lead to adaptive co-management outcomes? A multi-case study of long-term outcomes associated with the National Riparian Service Team's place based riparian assistance

Take-away message. Adaptive co-management (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. This paper contributes to knowledge on this topic by evaluating the National Riparian Service Team’s (NRST) efforts to catalyze adaptive co-management 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 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 CAM 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 CAM institutions may also face significant constraints and barriers, including existing laws and regulations associated with public land management.

Read and comment on the complete article.

The link above will take you to the Ecology and Society website. To comment on this article, select the link to “Discussion” on the right hand side of the website.