Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Natural Resources Policy

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Martin Nie

Commitee Members

James Burchfield, Len Broberg


collaboration, forest planning, natural resources conflict resolution, natural resources governance, natural resources policy, natural resources policy reform, place-specific enabling legislation


University of Montana


This paper investigates the use of place-based conservation legislation as a tool for conflict resolution, wilderness designation and unit-level administrative planning reform on national forests by analyzing the case of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership in Southwestern Montana. The codification of place-based negotiated compromises over forest management is a significant departure from the administrative planning approach used to resolve multiple-use conflicts by the U.S. Forest Service. The goals of this paper were to develop a place-based legislation typology for natural resources policy, to determine the motivations for seeking this approach, and to analyze its use. Preliminary research for this project was begun in December 2007 by reviewing relevant natural resources policy literature, documentation and legislation. This was followed by in-depth interviews with 13 natural resource policy professionals. These interviews showed that the interest in the place-based conservation legislation approach was primarily due to a frustration over perceived agency “gridlock,” a desire for increased certainty in the planning process, unresolved wilderness designations, and the need for comprehensive conservation measures in a changing West. The primary benefits of the place-based legislated approach, according to those interviewed, are its potential to make headway on the wilderness “stalemate” in Montana, to implement needed stewardship and restoration of national forests, to catalyze public lands and law reform, and to try to provide increased stability for local timber economies. On the other hand, some interviewees worried that a focus on unit-level legislation would lead to poor national forest governance, while others questioned the ability to fund and implement these initiatives. Still others were concerned over statutory language releasing IRAs and mandating mechanical treatments. These considerations are important not only at the unit level, as in the case of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, but also because of precedents that this approach might set. Finally, the place-based legislation policy typology developed for this paper includes national parks and wildlife refuges, national forest units, and protected land laws like wilderness law, companion designations, conservation omnibus acts, and place-based conservation legislation. This is important, for each legislation type has a different purpose, allowing for a more nuanced analysis of individual pieces of legislation.



© Copyright 2008 Michael Thomas Fiebig