New publication: Missing the trees for the forest? Bottom-up policy implementation and adaptive management in the US natural resource bureaucracy

Abstract: For decades, natural resource agencies in the United States have attempted to restore ecosystems using adaptive management, a process that emphasizes experimental learning to reduce uncertainty. Most studies show that it rarely occurs in practice and explain implementation failures as organizational issues. This study draws on policy implementation theory to suggest that behaviors and attitudes of individuals may better explain implementation gaps. This comparative case study finds differences between experts implementing adaptive management in the Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Geological Survey. These include differences in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors aimed at promoting individual autonomy, performance standards, and defending individual interests on the job. Policy implications are twofold: first, that individual behaviors impact adaptive management implementation and intrinsic motivation to perform such functions. Second, regardless of agency, experts view their work as a social good. This suggests that a devolved planning process may remedy implementation obstacles.
Keywords: adaptive management; ecological restorations; policy implementation; bureaucracy

PDF Dunning 2017

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