Public land manager decision-making under ecological transformation

Science Center Objects

As pressures from climate change and other anthropogenic stressors, like invasive species, increase, new challenges arise for natural resource managers who are responsible for the health of public lands. One of the greatest challenges these managers face is that the traditional way of managing resources might not be as effective, or in some cases might be ineffective, in light of transformation...

As pressures from climate change and other anthropogenic stressors, like invasive species, increase, new challenges arise for natural resource managers who are responsible for the health of public lands. One of the greatest challenges these managers face is that the traditional way of managing resources might not be as effective, or in some cases might be ineffective, in light of transformational ecological impacts that exist at the intersection of society and ecosystems. Thus, managers are struggling to understand how they should be managing shared natural resources and landscapes in this new era.



This project studies the decision-making process of federal land managers to illuminate how decisions are being navigated and what strategies managers are developing to address challenges. To examine this issue, the project will use a comparative case study design focused on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and the East Jemez Landscape in New Mexico, both of which are experiencing transformational ecological change and related management challenges.



The project uses semi-structured interviews with natural resource managers from both case study sites to identify important factors shaping manager decision making and to explain factors that differ between them. For instance, how are managers’ choice of strategies influenced by the agency to which they belong? This research will contribute to a new climate adaptation and conservation knowledge base and offer information about how decisions are currently being made on public lands. The findings will help support public land management and conservation efforts and inform researchers as to what type of science would be most usable for managers tackling ecological transformation.