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Title:Conservation priorities and collaboration in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Author(s):Girod, Lyndsey
Advisor(s):Flint, Courtney G.
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Regional conservation
organizational collaboration
Fish and Wildlife Service
Abstract:Large-scale drivers of environmental change, such as invasive species, climate change, and human land use, are prompting conservation planning and action at a landscape or regional scale. Historically, natural resource agencies worked within individual jurisdictional boundaries – both geographical boundaries and those boundaries created by differing missions. Yet the shift towards regional-scale conservation is prompting cross-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration among the various natural resource management agencies and conservation organizations within a region. Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were established in 2009 by the US Department of the Interior in response to large-scale environmental drivers. Twenty-two LCCs were established in North America. They were provided a structure for operation as well as funding and asked to create a cooperative of conservation players that would work together on shared issues. These regional bodies are made up of representatives from federal, state, and tribal governmental agencies, inter-governmental commissions and joint ventures, and non-governmental organizations. LCCs provide an opportunity to study two facets of regional conservation – priority setting and collaboration. A Shared Conservation Priorities Assessment was conducted for the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC in 2012 to aid them in setting conservation priorities for future work. A mixed methodology approach was used to assess the perspectives of LCC members and help them arrive at a set of shared priorities. The iterative and sequential process ensured that results from one phase were used to help create subsequent phases. The sequential process provided time for relationship-building between the researchers and participants and between the participants themselves. Semi-structured interviews, a document analysis, a Q-sort, and a workshop were used in the assessment. Results show that the mixed methodology approach used to assess conservation priorities provided three overarching benefits. First, qualitative data gathered in preliminary phases of the assessment helped establish a foundational understanding of participant perspectives regarding the preferred role of the LCC in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. That data were carried through and incorporated in subsequent phases and provided a road map for the LCC’s future activities. Second, the different methodologies produced several kinds of data, allowing the researchers to present the data in multiple ways. Interview data was presented through quotes highlighting strongly-articulated perspectives, as well grouped into themes for a more quantitative understanding of the prevalence of perspectives. Word maps were created to visually assess how subgroups within the LCC were articulating conservation priorities. Background document data and Q-sort data were presented in tables and charts. The ability to display the data in numerous ways provided for a more holistic understanding of the data and is a benefit of mixed methods. Third, results from the interview and Q-sort phases of the assessment were kept confidential by the research team, which ensured that results were less biased and that each participant was represented equally. Many assessments of this nature found in the literature and undertaken by other LCCs do not use confidential results in their assessment processes. The push for increased collaboration among conservation groups is due to the widespread and complex nature of many natural resource issues today, which require increasingly new skillsets. In addition, the push for more collaboration stems from declining agency budgets and reduced manpower. To better understand conservation collaboration in a regional setting, a conceptual framework based on natural resource collaboration literature was developed. This framework identifies three “spaces” where barriers to effective collaboration may arise, including within individual agencies, between agencies, and external to a collaboration. This framework was used to assess barriers to effective conservation collaboration and best strategies for collaboration from the perspectives of natural resource professionals engaged in the LCC. Participants provided new perspectives about barriers to effective conservation collaboration, but many of their thoughts built on ideas framed in existing literature. For example, constrained resources, stagnant agency culture, and a lack of trust were some of the barriers identified by participants that are also echoed in the literature. New barriers were also articulated, including having too many people in a group, individual personalities that aren’t collaborative, and having a large number of existing collaboration initiatives in a region. The conceptual framework used to examine barriers to effective collaboration provided a new way to understand where barriers are occurring and the potential for addressing them. This study provides insight to LCCs and other regional conservation initiatives regarding priority assessment methodologies and a new way to examine barriers to effective collaboration.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Lyndsey Girod
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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