Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Seekamp, Erin


Federal downsizing and reduced appropriations within the USDA Forest Service (USFS) have resulted in increased use of partnerships to deliver visitor services. Partnerships are the relationships in which two or more parties combine resources (e.g., funds, labor, information, skills) to accomplish a shared objective. Examples of USFS recreation partners include individual volunteers, professional contractors, and concessionaires. Partnerships provide a variety of services that may be otherwise neglected with fiscal constraints; for example, campground hosts, trail maintenance crews, and specialized recreation outfitters and guides provide visitor services the public desires. Although previous studies and USFS Accomplishment Reports indicate that partners are being used to deliver recreation services, there is a lack of understanding concerning the structure and function of these relationships. This thesis presents data from the second phase of a multi-phase study exploring the role of recreation partnerships on national forests. Using grounded theory, Phase I gathered and analyzed semi-structured interview data with key informants (n = 21). From these interviews, a conceptual framework of USFS recreation partnerships evolved, and internal commitment to partnerships and the external environment of forests emerged as indicators of agency capacity to partner. Internal commitment was defined by the presence, or lack of, a partnership coordinator on the forest. External environment was characterized by geographical location with urban forests, rural forests and amenity forests typifying various levels of partnership access for forest personnel. Phase II investigated these themes of commitment and environment using a multiple-case study methodology. Interviews with USFS personnel (n = 45) on six national forests representing a variety of internal commitment and external environment scenarios enabled the refinement of the partnership conceptual framework and indicators of agency capacity to administer partnerships. Specifically, this study illustrated that personnel motivations also influence agency capacity to partner. Fifteen distinct motivations emerged from informant interviews, which were classified within three categories of motivations: interpersonal, intrapersonal, and institutional. Together these themes of agency capacity--commitment, environment, and motivation--describe six unique cases of partnership involvement. These findings enable an increased awareness of agency capacity to partner and may enhance the leadership support, agency-partner interactions, and personnel motivations necessary to sustain USFS partnerships.




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