Making Sense Of Environmental Governance: An Empirical Assessment Of Accountability In Working Landscapes
Over the past 40 years, state, market, and civil society actors have created working forests. Although there are myriad definitions of working forests, the dominant definition focuses on multifunctionality - incorporating social, economic, and environmental interests and uses. Working forests are contextualized in broader political, economic, and legal processes like parcelization, division of property rights, and financialization. In an attempt to engage diverse stakeholders in management and conservation decisions, theses forests are controlled by state, market, and civil society actors creating hybrid governance arrangements. The forests that are both created and indicative of these processes raise concerns for forest and ecosystem fragmentation and contests among and within organizations. These concerns threaten the viability of these working forests and call into question the creation of future working forests. This study investigates two working forests in the United States that exhibit characteristics of the political economic processes mentioned above. I use neo-institutional theory from sociology to motivate the use of accountability mechanisms to evaluate working forests. These mechanisms give actors (accountors) the ability to receive information and sanction other actors (accountees). The study of accountability mechanisms affords the analyst the opportunity to understand the goals and relationships from which individual organizations seek to gain and maintain legitimacy. Within working forests, the study of accountability mechanisms provides the analyst an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which various goals and actors are brought into productive and stable tension through a series of proposed checks and balances. In this study, I qualitatively described and analyzed formal accountability mechanisms. I searched for formal accountability mechanisms for each organization holding a property right. From this information, I constructed the structure of accountability relationships, making note of both the type and nature the mechanisms. Moreover, I used qualitative content analysis to describe the objectives present in the accountability mechanisms. My findings demonstrate the diversity of goals and accountability relationships within working forests. I find that accountability mechanisms found in conservation easements and other agreements germane to the construction of the working forest are necessary to build relationship between organizations embedded in different institutional domains. The information sharing inherent in these mechanisms likely minimizes the risk of forest fragmentation. However, most accountability relationships exist within institutional domains, thus diminishing the potential for information sharing across domains. Through content analysis, I find that most organizations mention economic, environmental, and social goals. This finding may lessen the risk of contests among organizations, as different organizations perceive that their goals and concerns are incorporated into forest management. There is evidence, however, of contests within organizations as groups negotiate for which goals are pursued within the context of scarce resources. Contests among and within organizations do not necessarily mean the termination of these working forests. Rather these goals can be brought into productive and stable tension through the formal agreements underlying the working forest. However, if these goals are not brought into productive and stable tension, there is reason for concern. Contests may lead organizations to dissociate from the working forests. As organizations dissociate it may create the inability to pursue multifunctionality. Moreover, new organizations may enter the arrangement with unknown consequences for the realization of multifunctionality. This study offers future analysts a way to use accountability mechanisms to analyze environmental governance. Overall, there is reason for concern in these working forests, but more work needs to be done to find concrete evidence of organizational contests and lost legitimacy.
Environmental Governance; Accountability; Organizations
Wolf, Steven A.
Tolbert, Pamela S
M.S., Natural Resources
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis