Public land manager decision-making in East Jemez under ecological transformation

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2022-04-17

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Climate-driven ecological transformation characterized by dramatic and irreversible shifts in ecological communities is challenging traditional land management strategies. A growing body of research and technical assistance is emerging to address ecological transformation. One example is the development of the Resist, Accept, Direct (RAD) framework which outlines three distinct land management options in the face of climate change. The resist option allows for managers to resist specific climate impacts and maintain natural and cultural resources within what land managers have historically defined as the “desired conditions.” The accept option allows managers to accept ecosystem changes and alter their strategies to work within a changing environment. The direct option allows park managers to guide “change toward a specific new state because it is feasible to steward change toward a more desirable outcome than what would be achieved with acceptance” (NPS, 2021). Despite the development of this robust framework to address ecological transformation, there has been insufficient focus on social, cultural, and institutional factors that play an important role in shaping managers’ decisions when faced with ecosystem transformation. This project empirically examines decision-making processes that U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service (NPS) land managers in East Jemez, New Mexico use to select land management strategies and develop new methods for navigating ecological transformation. East Jemez was selected as a case study site as it is experiencing the firedriven ecological transformation from forests to grassland and shrubland. East Jemez is facing land management challenges associated with the transformation. Through semistructured interviews with 19 state and federal land managers, this study examined two questions: how do natural resource managers make land management decisions and determine future desired conditions during ecological transformation? How does this process vary between different land management agencies, in this case, NPS and USFS? Based on the qualitative analysis of the data collected through interviews with land managers, key findings fall into four categories: • General perceptions of the RAD framework, • Internal factors that influence decision-making, • External factors that influence decision-making, • Barriers to responding to ecological transformation. This report offers recommendations to agencies and agency staff for addressing barriers to responding to ecological transformation, including establishing and communicating agency land management guidelines under ecological transformation, supporting more collaboration through partner groups, and developing protocols to ensure key partner relationships are not affected when there is personnel turnover.

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Antonova, Gaby (2022). Public land manager decision-making in East Jemez under ecological transformation. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27097.


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