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Jill L. Weiss, Ph.D., is a 2016 graduate of the PhD Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Peter A. Palmiotto, Doctorate of Forestry, Committee Chair
  • Joy W. Ackerman, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Michael Hutton-Woodland, Ph.D., Committee Member

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Environmental problems are becoming increasingly complex and harder for any one discipline or approach to address. In the case of land conservation, there is an incongruity between how we view and manage social and natural systems even though each is reliant on the other. Adaptive co-management of these socio-ecological landscapes by a cross section of stakeholders and disciplines is necessary. In New England this is happening through Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs). RCPs are conservation networks comprised of land trusts, local governments, landowners, and localized conservation action groups. The geographic range of each RCP varies in size from a few hundred to half a million acres. Their activities break down disciplinary, political, and organizational boundaries and connect management of land for people through conserving contiguous and ecologically sustainable landscapes in an increasingly developed Northeast. RCPs represent a great diversity of resources, knowledge, and skills. Partnerships pool what they have and leverage it for their shared purpose. The purpose of this study is to characterize Regional Conservation Partnerships (RCPs), to better understand communication and collaboration among practitioners and across organizations in conservation networks, and find what the participants consider when measuring their success. The study has its theoretical roots in the fields of collaborative adaptive management, landscape ecology, organizational assessment, and communication. Methods employed include archival research, interviews, and surveys, with both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The conclusions drawn were themed around communication and collaboration. This population values opportunities to share information, yet, they do not meet often. When they do meet, important communication opportunities occur through storytelling and shared experience. It was found that elastic and sometimes temporary network relationships, along with clear information sharing expectations, were most useful for pooling resources aimed at decisive conservation actions. While trust and regular communication were prized, further integration of organizations was not. RCPs are knowledge transfer centers, and an embodiment of landscape ecology theory. Successful RCPs apply the promising practices mentioned above and utilize an ephemeral type of collaboration that allows partner organizations to come together to take action on parcel projects or bolster capacity, then loosen ties to work autonomously. RCPs are a land conservation model worthy of further study and emulation, for, doing more conservation work with less resources is a future certainty.

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Jill L. Weiss

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-4337-7970

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