Date of Award
Master of Science
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF LORI A. BARROW, for the Master of Science degree in FORESTRY, presented on October 18, 2012 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale TITLE: ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT FOR USDA FOREST SERVICE PARTNERSHIPS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Erin Seekamp and Dr. Andrew Carver In an era of constrained appropriations and increasingly complex social and environmental challenges, partnerships have become an essential tool for public land management agencies, such as the USDA Forest Service (USFS), to accomplish critical tasks, meet management goals, and enhance service delivery. Despite the growing practice and reliance on partnerships as an alternative management strategy, few empirical assessments of this management approach have been conducted, and knowledge is limited regarding the structure and function of these relationships. Therefore, the goals of this study were to expand the established partnership knowledge base by systematically examining the institutional characteristics necessary to foster a vibrant partnership culture, uncovering and documenting the various partnership structural types being utilized, and determining whether or not institutional characteristics or external environment characteristics are related to the partnership approach utilized by USFS personnel. To explore these partnership characteristics, and assess whether differences existed between administrative levels and between national forest, an online questionnaire was administered to agency personnel on 13 randomly selected forests during the fall of 2011. Forests were randomly selected from three stratum of internal commitment from all 155 national forests' "Working Together" webpage. Of the 1584 respondent sample, 611 completed the questionnaire (40% response rate). Data collected clearly document a steady increase in the reliance of partnerships as a management strategy in recreation and resource service delivery. While the findings reveal diverse partnership support networks, respondents reported few incentives to cultivate partnerships and limited recognition for their partnership work. Furthermore, this study confirms that agency personnel work with multiple types of volunteer or partnering groups on a fairly regular basis, and make strategic choices when selecting and cultivating partnerships based on the types of work typically performed and their access and proximity to different partnering groups. Moreover, a mixed-method cluster analysis provided further insight into agency-partner interactions by identifying and defining partnership structural types and exposing variation in personnel's capacity to engage partners based on the level of internal support received, the extent of the national forest's partnership dependency, and type of external environment that categorizes the communities adjacent to the national forest (i.e., urban or rural). As the partnership phenomenon continues to be espoused by the USFS as an innovative and alternative management strategy, this thesis provides agency personnels' depiction of the agency's capacity to engage and support partnerships at multiple administrative levels and on different national forests, and helps build the foundation for managing national forests through partnerships.
This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.