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Collaborative Adaptive Management in the Southwest

Since the 1970s, some natural resource practitioners and academics have argued that natural resource management should be collaborative and should be adaptable over time in the face of new information and changing environmental and social conditions. Collaborative adaptive management, or CAM, is a natural resource management approach in which a diverse group of stakeholders iteratively plan, implement, monitor, evaluate and adjust management actions to reduce uncertainty and improve decisions over time. While promising in theory, few examples of successful CAM have been identified in practice.

Jenna Kay (MCP ’12) looked at three relatively effective CAM efforts in the southwestern United States to find out what CAM looks like in practice and what is enabling these efforts to be successful over time. Specific tools, such as the use of a trained mediator and joint fact-finding, were introduced in the cases to address process deficiencies interfering with the group’s ability to collaborate or test management strategies. Factors such as effective long-term leadership, committed and enthusiastic participants, and strong organizational partnerships have also promoted the implementation of these programs.

More lessons from Jenna’s research in the field can be found in Jenna’s thesis.