Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Systems Ecology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Alexander L. Metcalf

Commitee Members

Maurice H. Valett, Daniel T. Spencer, Cory Davis


procedural justice, social-ecological systems resilience, stakeholder collaboration, ecological restoration, quantitative models, path analysis


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Studies | Legal Theory | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Other Environmental Sciences | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Philosophy of Science | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social Psychology and Interaction | Social Statistics | Sustainability


Successful management of social-ecological systems (SES) is predicated on quality collaborative exchanges between project stakeholders and management. The Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC) Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) provided an opportunity to explore landscape scale collaborative management and SES outcomes. Global change and future uncertainty of landscapes prompted the SWCC to employ restoration treatment alternatives throughout 1.4 million acres of forests, most of which are publicly held. The SWCC currently monitors environmental and economic variables, with plans to monitor social variables. This thesis formalizes a proposed framework to investigate SES resilience, and explores public engagement as an SES process in the SWCC landscape with recommendations for management improvements to bolster positive outcomes. Chapter two explores public engagement using a social justice theoretical lens, and is a stand-alone manuscript submitted to Society and Natural Resources (accepted with minor revisions on 3/26/2017). Public engagement is important for improving outcomes of social-ecological systems management. This manuscript reports on a study linking residents’ attitudes toward public engagement processes to their overall satisfaction with outcomes of a restoration project in Western Montana. We hypothesized that engagement efforts must incorporate both the process control (PC) and decision control (DC) dimensions of procedural justice because DC directly affects stakeholder satisfaction while PC affects stakeholder satisfaction both directly and indirectly through DC. We tested these predictions using a path analysis of intercept survey data collected from residents within the project area. We found process control had a significant and positive effect on satisfaction, but was fully mediated by decision control, suggesting successful engagement requires opportunities for stakeholders to not only participate, but to clearly shape decisions and outcomes. We discuss implications for public engagement, human dimensions research, and social monitoring of social-ecological systems. I conclude by exploring extant SES frameworks and provide suggestions for potential changes to SWCC management, as well as suggestions to improve social monitoring. Among the myriad recommendations provided to improve SES outcomes, improved engagement processes hold primacy; the quality of engagement directly affects stakeholder satisfaction, and may bolster support. Further research questions are raised, which might expand knowledge of how engagement affects support for restoration treatment alternatives.



© Copyright 2017 Frederick I. Lauer