Year of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

SOCIETY AND CONSERVATION

Committee Chair

DR. JILL BELSKY

Commitee Members

DR. MARTIN NIE, DR. SARAH HALVORSON

Keywords

NGO-OWNED COMMUNITY FORESTS, LAND MANAGEMENT PLANNING, COMMUNITY BASED NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES CONFLICT RESOLUTION, COMMUNITY FOREST GOVERNANCE

Publisher

University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy

Abstract

In recent decades, non-governmental organizations have acquired and established community forests and conservation areas in the U.S. However, there have been few empirical studies on their governance. This study focuses on the Blackfoot Community Conservation Area (BCCA) in the Blackfoot watershed of Montana, created in 2005. The BCCA is a 41,000 acre mosaic of private, state, and federal lands, including 5,600 acres known as the “Core” located near Ovando mountain and owned by the Blackfoot Challenge, a local watershed organization and leader in grassroots conservation. This research examined the definitions, activities and lessons learned over the past decade with regard to governing the BCCA and especially to operationalizing two of its key governance principles: community involvement and landscape connectivity through public-private partnerships. The research methodology involved personal interviews with BCCA Council members, review of BCCA Council meeting minutes and MOUs with partnering landowners, and analysis of resource management decisions and activities, specifically developing a motorized recreational use policy, and weed and forest management across the mixed ownership landscape. Regarding the community involvement principle, the research found that it was operationalized through four levels of involvement: (1) information-sharing, (2) perspective-gathering, (3) decision-making, and (4) BCCA Council membership. Close examination of motorized use planning showed the BCCA council has learned strategies to incorporate and reconcile conflicting values and interests in decision-making processes, which have included delegation to small work groups, cooperation, and evidence-based adaptation. Regarding landscape connectivity, the study found that BCCA partners share costs on noxious weed management, and that forest treatments in BCCA forests are carried out in light of the ecological and management context of adjacent ownerships. Shared commitments and regular communication between land managers foster relationship-building and the ad-hoc exchange of financial and technical resources. Nevertheless, administrative sideboards and financial limitations remain primary constraints to achieving broad goals, and most resources have been invested in the BCCA core. The study concludes with the necessity that the BCCA council focus on how to bring a broader array of community interests into decision-making processes and positions, notably BCCA council membership, and pursue diversified funding strategies for joint-projects with BCCA partners.

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© Copyright 2018 Alexander A. Barton