Toward A Practice Of Impacts Management: Insights From An Exploratory Case Study

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Adaptive Impact Management (AIM) was proposed to help wildlife managers integrate diverse knowledge bases, involve stakeholders in decisions, and design decision processes that differentiate management ends and means. In concept, AIM: (1) makes stakeholder-defined impacts the focus of management objectives; (2) uses a transactional approach to stakeholder engagement ; and (3) conducts situation analyses to clarify management context and the dynamic complexity of systems that generate impacts. Applied research is needed to understand potential adoption and evaluate the utility of AIM as an innovation to the cyclical decision-making process of wildlife management. From 2001 to 2008, I conducted action research with a team of practitioners who adopted an AIM approach for black bear (Ursus americanus) management in New York State. This in-depth study uses case research to evaluate that first full implementation of AIM. Taking a single-case research design with three embedded units of analysis (i.e., management stakeholders, mass media, wildlife managers), I used a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative (e.g., survey research, media content analysis) and qualitative (i.e., participant observations, analysis of interview transcripts) data collection techniques to challenge key assumptions of AIM in practice. I examined theoretical assumptions of AIM as an explanation for findings, in comparison to a rival explanation that implementation failings alone explain the data. Case description was used to develop tentative hypotheses about how and why particular AIM components were adopted. Multiple sources of information established chains of evidence to improve construct validity. Pattern matching, explanation building, construction of rival explanations, and process logic models were employed to improve internal validity. Findings indicated that implementation of transactional stakeholder engagement, impacts-focused analysis, and systems thinking exercises produced learning, knowledge integration, administrative support for regulatory proposals, and other positive outcomes. I found support for several key assumptions underlying AIM. Benefits not withstanding, findings imply that diffusion of AIM in New York will depend on continued intervention by scholars of the AIM approach, at least until agency staff experience and capacity have developed further. Sustainability and utility of AIM will also depend on structural changes within the sponsor agency that increase capacity for transactional communication with stakeholders.

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Impacts Management
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