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Collaboration Derailed: The Politics of “Community-Based” Resource Management in Nevada County

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Collaborative natural resource management (CNRM) is often portrayed as a way to find “win–win” solutions that move “beyond ” bitter adversarial politics. Research on failures of CNRM emphasizes institutional and procedural barriers. In contrast, using a study of a failed CNRM program in Nevada County, California, we emphasize the role of intracommunity politics. We build on work by Few (2001) that examines political “containment” and “capture” of collaborative processes. In Nevada County, we identify another political tactic: the strategic use of “derailment” of CNRM by powerful interests to achieve goals outside the collaborative process. Expanding upon Amy (1987), we suggest that this example illustrates that collaboration is not separate from, or “beyond,” politics. CNRM can become an avenue of power that social groups use to achieve broader political ends. This calls into question the general optimism about CNRM and the current emphasis on making it “work” by refining institutions and procedures.

Keywords: United States; collaboration; community; natural resource management; political ecology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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