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Incorporating Complex Adaptive Systems Theory into Strategic Planning: The Sierra Nevada Conservancy

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Conservation organizations rely increasingly on integrated planning approaches that explicitly address social and economic goals while pursuing ecological conservation. Moreover, the spatial and temporal scale at which these organizations operate is growing. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy, established as a new state agency by California legislation in 2004 to pursue social, economic and ecological sustainability across a 25 million acre region, exemplifies this large-scale, integrated approach. Therefore, the new agency faces a complex set of policy objectives that must be pursued across a widely varying geography of social, economic and ecological conditions. Using the Conservancy's fire management program area as an example, the paper illustrates how application of an analytic framework from complex adaptive systems theory can guide the Conservancy to deploy its resources more effectively than broader-scale application of a single, agency-wide strategy relying on a more static model. Therefore, the complex adaptive systems framework offers promise in strategic planning. The paper illustrates how the model's four-stage cycle can be applied at the sub-regional and programmatic level to identify opportunities for agency intervention that address varying local conditions. This approach is likely to increase the effectiveness of programs for agencies facing similar complexities and challenges.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Design, Community & Environment, Berkeley, CA, USA 2: Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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