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Policy design to support cross-boundary land management: The example of the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership

Cyphers, Laren A., Schultz, Courtney A.
Land use policy 2019 v.80 pp. 362-369
collaborative management, collective action, environmental governance, federal government, forest restoration, funding, interviews, issues and policy, land management, landscape management, United States
There is a mismatch between large-scale, dynamic, ecological processes and the scales at which individual land management agency units have the capacity and authority to work. To improve environmental governance, scholars across disciplines emphasize the need to work across jurisdictional and organizational boundaries to support collective action and address scale mismatches. An important question now is how to design policies that support collaborative management across jurisdictional boundaries to produce improved outcomes. Our research evaluated the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership, a new policy tool in use by the US federal government to support forest restoration activities across the public-private divide, to investigate two research questions: 1) Did the policy design of the Joint Chiefs Partnership effectively support cross-boundary work? And, 2) What underlying conditions helped or hindered the ability of project participants to undertake cross-boundary work using this policy approach? To glean program-wide understanding of the Joint Chiefs Partnership, we conducted 62 semi-structured interviews with agency staff and external participants in the program. We found that the requirement to collaborate and infusion of committed, multi-year funding supported faster implementation of planned work and increased coordination across jurisdictions and partners. Previously established collaborative relationships were reported as the most critical factor underlying success, while limited agency capacity was reported as significantly impeding project success. Our findings suggest that this policy tool, which incorporates proposed policy design principles to support improved governance, was successful for supporting cross-boundary management and collective action. The results from this study also raise practical questions about tradeoffs under programs that prioritize funding investments and about navigating among the variables that affect policy implementation. Our study contributes to the broader literature on policy design for complex environmental governance challenges and provides an empirical evalution of a policy tool in a specific legal, administrative, and land management context.