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A Retrospective Assessment of a Failed Collaborative Process in Conservation

Kretser, Heidi E., Beckmann, Jon P., Berger, Joel
Environmental management 2018 v.62 no.3 pp. 415-428
Antilocapra americana, case studies, motivation, natural gas, watersheds, Wyoming
Collaboration provides one tool for managing the complicated and often the contentious natural resource issues. Successful collaborative arrangements involve a mix of actors bringing key attributes to the table: power, capacity, motivation, mandate, and synergy. These attributes, if missing or if one overshadows the rest, can derail the collaborative process and/or the conservation outcomes. We offer a case study of natural gas field development impacts on America’s only endemic ungulate—pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)—winter range in the Upper Green River Basin (UGRB), Wyoming, USA. We illustrate how a collaborative process can go awry, given asymmetries between the relative strengths and the associated attributes of actors, and the subsequent extent to which this imbalance created an unfavorable situation for continued collaboration. The case study reveals disagreements on technical data and potential insight on agency capture operating at a local scale. Despite these process challenges, some conservation outcomes resulted from work generated by the collaboration. Our experience underscores the importance of defining a clear purpose for collaborative processes at the outset, articulating specific roles, ensuring transparency among actors, and flexibility for long-term management as possible ways, in which the groups involved in collaborations to manage natural resources can complement each other’s strengths and strive for better conservation outcomes.