Study examines role of GNLCC in facilitating conservation

The Great Northern LCC geographic area encompasses parts of the Columbia Basin, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sage Steppe of the Interior West.

Graham McDowell, MS Candidate, Environmental Change Institute - University of Oxford

The role of bridging organizations in facilitating socio-ecological transformation: A case study of the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative

Abstract: It is apparent that contemporary environmental changes may be overwhelming conservation institutions’ capacity to protect esteemed and ecologically vital components of the biosphere. In an effort to improve understanding of how responses to this environmental change and management dilemma can be improved, this study examines the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GNLCC) and its efforts, as a bridging organization, to facilitate a transformation to collaborative landscape-scale conservation in the bi-national Great Northern region. Complementary theoretical perspectives (socio-ecological resilience and political ecology) are linked via a novel mixed method approach (social network analysis and institutional ethnography) to critically examine the GNLCC, the nature of relationships among actors in the social network it is cultivating, and how those relations are improving or inhibiting socio-ecological transformation. The study demonstrates that the GNLCC, through network building and endogenous financial, scientific, and technological capacity, is playing a key role in tipping conservation efforts in the Great Northern region towards more ecologically and socially tenable conditions. However, the study also identifies that interactions among actors (or lack thereof) in co-management arrangements can produce multifaceted outcomes where perceived benefits of collaboration can obscure procedural justice and efficacy issues. In view of this consequential variation, eight specific recommendations for improving the GNLCC’s bridging efforts are presented. By developing and demonstrating the value of new conceptual and methodological approaches (which address identified limitations of existing bridging organization research), the study makes a modest but salient contribution to socio-ecological resilience scholarship aimed at understanding the role of bridging organizations in facilitating socio-ecological transformation.

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