Collaborative community conservation is an approach that emphasizes the role of citizens and organized stakeholders in developing consensus-based, holistic responses to the complex ecological problems that cross regulatory and jurisdictional boundaries and seeks to engage partners in sustained deliberation, trust-building, and shared work so that ecological, economic, and community goals can be addressed in integrative ways.
Richard Margerum’s overview of the field accounts for some of the variation according to three main archetypes, although these vary on a continuum, with hybrid and nested forms and changes from one phase to another. Margerum’s three general types are:
- action collaboratives: focus on direct, on-the-ground action, such as monitoring ecological conditions, restoring watersheds, enhancing habitat, reintroducing and managing fire, improving land management, and educating stakeholders and the public.
- organizational collaboratives: engage formal government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, with the goal of changing their roles or improving their programs.
- policy collaboratives: these focus on policy deliberations, higher-level administrative roles, and legislative changes. They might develop new water quality standards or a broad strategy to address sea level rise.
The conservation movement has a long and complex history in the U.S., with important national groups such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Wilderness Society, among others.
- It has achieved many important gains, such as the Wilderness Act of 1964, which set aside nine million acres of Forest Service land and established a public process for designating tens of millions more acres from other federal land agencies – for a total of 250 million acres in some form of protected status.
- Additionally, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 1970) contains provisions for environmental impact statements (EIS), including interdisciplinary ecological analysis, as well as public participation.
- Finally, The Endangered Species Act (ESA, 1973) has far stronger substantive requirements for protecting wildlife habitats and species, and it covers all public and private lands. The ESA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, largely because many did not anticipate the power and scope of its key sections 4, 7, and 9 on public and private land use.
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