Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Groninger, John


In southern Illinois, multiple state, federal, and private ownerships are implementing various management tactics in the Cache River watershed. Although some aspects are coordinated under the Cache River Joint Venture Partnership (CRJVP), individual agencies and entities retain specific ownership priorities and approaches to management. This case study explores how agency/organizational characteristics and interrelations affect land management decision-making among land managers employed by federal agencies, state agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-five participants, including land managers, staff members who maintain active participation with on-the-ground activities, and individuals who have worked closely with CRJVP. Triangulation of interview transcriptions, meeting observations, management plans, and other relevant agency/organization documents revealed emerging themes and patterns within the data. Grounded theory was applied to better understand how differences in institutional cultures, missions, and resources impact management practices across the landscape. Results suggest that administrative processes, funding sources, policy and regulations, mission statements, specified objectives, and management goals within and between agencies/organizations determine how institutional priorities and capacity impact management decisions and on-the-ground activities. Institutional structures influence decision-making power and field-level capabilities. Management decisions follow mandates and internal orders within their respective institutions. While overarching goals remain compatible, each institution exhibits their own perspective of managing resources. Combined with unclear management criteria, these discrepancies create a shift in institutional interests. Current economic conditions influence institutions to work internally and re-assess values, shifting focus from partnership actions to individual institutional goals. Despite diminishing budgets and lessening capacity, partnerships are able to pool resources and encourage collaborative on-the-ground actions. More resources indicate greater management capabilities, collective thinking to solve problems, and bridging resource gaps. Partners stand together in a unifying force, bringing strength to each institution and backing up decisions with collective efforts. For successful collaborative management, partners must focus on fundamental common goals as well as respect differences in institutional cultures. Partnership flaws must be acknowledged and accepted for constituents to continue to move forward in collaborative natural resource management. While addressing individual site needs, large scale management is still an effective management unit for natural resource institutions. Additionally, adaptive management is the key to addressing ecosystem dynamics. Natural resources are dynamic and resource managers must adjust management tactics to suit environmental changes over spatial and temporal scales.




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