Date of Award
Master of Science
Resilience is a concept that is becoming heavily researched in the sustainability and resource management literature. For rural resource-dependent communities, community resilience is the ability to adapt to various drivers of change while maintaining or enhancing community well-being. In recent decades, the field of water resource governance has been transitioning from a reliance on command-and-control institutional structures toward adaptive multi-level institutions, such as adaptive co-management and adaptive governance. These transitions offer potential opportunities for enhancing the resilience and sustainability of resource-dependent communities. However, the relationship between these emerging governance approaches and community resilience is not fully understood. The Cache River Watershed in southern Illinois offers an opportunity for further exploring these relationships. Designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance due to its concentration of high-quality wetland habitat and high biodiversity, the Cache River Watershed is home to over 100 threatened or endangered species. In 1991, the Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture Partnership (CRWJVP) was formed to address various ecological crises in the watershed. While the CRWJVP has made significant progress in restoring and reforesting the corridor along the Cache River, the impact of these management efforts on the resilience of communities in the watershed has not been adequately analyzed. Using the Cache River Watershed as a case study, the purpose of this study was to assess the impacts of ongoing transitions in water governance on the resilience of resource-dependent communities. Based on a qualitative research approach, methods of data collection for this study consisted of key informant interviews, participant observations, and the review of documents. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a deductive coding approach with the aid of NVivo software. The analysis of data on the general resilience attributes of the communities showed that the well-being and resilience of the communities were composed of multiple dimensions that could be represented by the capital assets framework. The results also indicated that the various dimensions of community resilience were dynamic rather than static, interacted with one another in complex ways, and were influenced by multiple drivers of change from the local to the global. The analysis of data on community participation in the governance of the watershed also revealed moderate to minimal levels of involvement. Barriers that were identified in the participation process comprised the lack of awareness and interest among some community members, as well as the lack of resources and opportunities for participation. Finally, the impacts of the CRWJVP management actions on community resilience were analyzed. Although most key informants reported positive impacts of the program on the communities’ natural capital, the impacts of the program on other dimensions of community resilience, such as physical capital and economic capital were largely perceived as negative. Key informants recommended the need for a consensus-building approach to managing ongoing conflicts in the watershed, as well as a broadening of the CRWJVP management agenda to include social considerations, such as tourism promotion and flood control. These results highlight the complexity of resource-dependent communities and the urgent need for a transition toward adaptive water governance for enhancing social and ecological resilience.
This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.