Camisha Booth

Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Neil Moisey


University of Montana


In recent years there has been a tremendous increase in collaborative decision making processes in natural resource management, especially in the Western United States. Collaborative groups have had some remarkable successes, primarily through local, place-based groups. Realizing the potential in collaboration, many government agencies are beginning to utilize them in attempts to reduce public dissatisfaction with land management decisions. There are, however, critics of collaboration and many are concerned with government attempts at utilizing this form of public participation.

Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) are an example of a government mandated collaborative process. RACs consist of 15 members from three specific caucuses, and are supposed to fairly represent the surrounding community. RACs make recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on management issues.

This research looks at eight RACs operating throughout the American West. Through observation, document analysis and interviews, it addresses the question - are RACs an effective way of involving the public in land management decisions? More specifically, this research also determines which characteristics are most important to a successful government mandated collaborative process. It also considers closely the role of the government agency in the groups and assesses the importance of social vs. physical outcomes.

In this study, 31 RAC participants were interviewed using the same open-ended questions. The purpose was to determine how RAC participants perceived the process they were involved in. It was found that most considered their efforts to be worthwhile overall. Organizational traits such as clearly defined goals, a truly balanced RAC, efficient meetings, and the use of subcommittees were found to be important. Also crucial to a functional RAC was an enthusiastic and capable BLM representative working with the group. BLM implementation of recommendations was an important consideration, however for many RAC members, social outcomes were just as important as this physical outcome. Important social outcomes include learning and getting to know other members of the community and their different views. Although not a perfect example of collaboration, this research suggests that RACs are a positive way to involve the public in natural resource management decision-making.



© Copyright 2003 Camisha Booth