Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Whiles, Matt

Second Advisor

Seekamp, Erin


Grass-roots conservation efforts, implemented at the local level, have become increasingly popular within the U.S. and abroad. The conservation and natural resource literature has touted these initiatives as more effective when compared to top-down management efforts. As localities are given more responsibility for managing their own natural resources, their ability to do so effectively has become a major concern. I sought to determine the capacity of these community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) groups to contribute to successful ecosystem management in the state of Illinois, with three primary objectives: to determine the primary components of capacity within a CBNRM organization (chapter 2); to identify the relationship between the levels of capacity in a CBNRM organization and the quality of natural resource management planning conducted by the group (chapter 3); and, to evaluate the effects of resource management plans (RMPs) produced by CBNRM groups on the ecological integrity of the prescribed area. This multi-disciplinary project necessitated reliance on the principles of both sociology and ecology, as required by explorations of socio-ecological systems. This dissertation is an attempt to model the success of CBNRM initiatives by examining changes in ecological integrity and attainment of conservation goals. It is my intent that this model can be used by CBNRM groups in Illinois and other contexts to best meet their goals, and by organizations seeking to assist CBNRM groups as an investment guide to determine what type of assistance is most likely to lead to environmental change. I found motivation, leadership, respect, mutual interest/shared values, outreach/education, marketing, communication, planning, funding and equipment/supplies were the most important drivers of CBNRM group capacity. Additionally, my results show that capacity varied significantly among groups with low, moderate and high RMP success, and that group capacity was predictive of the degree of RMP success. Lastly, I found bird indicators increased, especially at the 7-8 year post-RMP mark, providing some evidence of the utility of CBNRM initiatives in affecting positive environmental change.




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