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Fostering social-ecological resilience in the Upper Klamath Basin : The National Riparian Service Team's Creeks and Communities strategy and an emerging model for government in adaptive co-management Public Deposited

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  • Social-ecological resilience theory is part of a new paradigm for understanding and managing complex coupled human-ecological systems. The theory aims to inform explorations of a system’s ability to withstand disturbance while maintaining its critical functions. Adaptive co-management has been proposed as a governance mechanism that can enhance resiliency by combining the shared learning components of adaptive management with collaborative and community-based approaches to natural resource management. This new paradigm poses a challenge for government agencies charged with overseeing the nation’s natural resources, however, since many still embrace a more traditional centralized, science-based decision making approach. The National Riparian Service Team (NRST or Team), an interagency partnership between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, is an example of a federal agency that is experimenting with this new paradigm. This study draws on concepts associated with resiliency and adaptive co-management as a basis for evaluating one aspect of the NRST’s Creeks & Communities Strategy (Strategy), which was designed to address both the technical and social aspects of riparian management across ownership boundaries using a place-based approach to problem solving. Using the Upper Klamath Basin as a case study, we found the NRST to be an effective catalyst for adaptive co-management, at least in part because of the timing of its intervention, which occurred during what we characterize as a phase of reorganization following the 2001 collapse of the social-ecological system. Two major components of the Team’s approach are highlighted for their role in promoting adaptive co-management and enhancing the resilience of the Upper Klamath Basin social-ecological system: (1) the concept at the core of the NRST’s approach to riparian health assessment, Proper Functioning Condition (PFC), which both provides a qualitative measure of resilient capacity and promotes social learning and joint-fact finding; and (2) the Team’s emphasis on collaboration and cross-scale communication, which builds social capital and enhances community capacity to garner resources from other scales. Finally, we suggest that while the NRST exemplifies an effective and important new role for government actors in ecosystem management, there are a number of barriers currently preventing this model from being widely adopted in other government agencies.
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