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J Environ Manage. 2013 Jul 15;123:58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.03.014. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

Collaboration and nested environmental governance: Scale dependency, scale framing, and cross-scale interactions in collaborative conservation.

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College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA.


The problem of fit between social institutions and ecological systems is an enduring challenge in natural resource management and conservation. Developments in the science of conservation biology encourage the management of landscapes at increasingly larger scales. In contrast, sociological approaches to conservation emphasize the importance of ownership, collaboration and stewardship at scales relevant to the individual or local community. Despite the proliferation of initiatives seeking to work with local communities to undertake conservation across large landscapes, there is an inherent tension between these scales of operation. Consequently, questions about the changing nature of effective conservation across scales abound. Through an analysis of three nested cases working in a semiautonomous fashion in the Northern Rocky Mountains in North America, this paper makes an empirical contribution to the literature on nested governance, collaboration and communication across scales. Despite different scales of operation, constituencies and scale frames, we demonstrate a surprising similarity in organizational structure and an implicit dependency between these initiatives. This paper examines the different capacities and capabilities of collaborative conservation from the local to regional to supra regional. We draw on the underexplored concept of 'scale-dependent comparative advantage' (Cash and Moser, 2000), to gain insight into what activities take place at which scale and what those activities contribute to nested governance and collaborative conservation. The comparison of these semiautonomous cases provides fruitful territory to draw lessons for understanding the roles and relationships of organizations operating at different scales in more connected networks of nested governance.

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