AbstractsBusiness Management & Administration


In an era of rapid social and environmental change, frequent public protests and the documented decline of ecosystem health have demonstrated that traditional environmental management approaches are ill equipped to address public concerns and adapt to changing ecosystems. To address these challenges, researchers and communities have combined the concepts of collaboration and adaptation to create adaptive co-management. This approach acknowledges that socio-ecological systems are complex and constantly in flux while emphasizing public participation and collaborative learning as mechanisms to create novel solutions to social and ecological challenges. Adaptive co-management encourages land managers to collaborate with local communities to monitor the health of their relationship and the ecosystems they seek to protect. While in theory, adaptive co-management should allow land managers and communities to learn from previous experiences and explore new alternatives to improve natural resource management, few studies empirically analyze the process and outcomes of this new approach. I collaborated with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the National Park Service to evaluate a case study of adaptive co-management in the South Unit of Badlands National Park. Working closely with the Tribe and the Park Service I conducted a participatory evaluation of this collaborative relationship. Data was collected through participant observation, in-depth interviews and a review of policy documents and local archives. A key academic finding from this study is that while the Tribe possessed fewer resources and less authority than the Park Service, they exercised power in the co-management process because they spoke on behalf of indigenous knowledge and Native American sovereignty. A key applied finding from this study is that while Tribe and the Park Service share the desire to create the nation's first Tribal National Park in the South Unit, their motivations for this goal vary considerably. To encourage the sustainability of this adaptive co-management effort, the Park Service and the Tribe must iteratively evaluate their relationship, recognize the benefits and challenges of diverse perspectives, and build social networks within and between their collaborating organizations. This case study illuminates mechanisms, such as collaborative learning and the combination of tribal consultation with co-management, that can encourage more equitable and adaptive environmental management in the face of social and environmental change.